Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.…
If birth and religious advantages could do anything to put a man into the kingdom of God, Nicodemus could surely claim to be there. His descent went back without a break to Abraham, to whom is was pledged that in his seed should the whole earth be blessed; he belonged to a nation marked off as God's peculiar people by deliverances and promises such as belonged to no others. If ever a man could claim to belong to God by religious observance and association this man could. Upon him was the sign and seal of his belonging to God, the mark of that initial sacrament with all its significance; he was constant in prayer, in the study of the Scriptures, and in the observance of the law. If external ceremonies could set a man in the kingdom of God, none could stand more securely than Nicodemus, who through every day and every hour of his life was subject to all kind of religious exercises, and ceremonies carried out with a scrupulous jealousy. If religion is in notions, scriptural and orthodox notions, in reverent feelings, in devout prayers, in generous sentiments, here then is a man in need of nothing. Yet this is the man to whom it is spoken, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." What then, was all this a cumbersome folly? This Jewish arrangement of training and worship; circumcision, altars, priests, sacrifices, prophecies — was it all no good, even though God Himself had arranged and commanded it? Even so; it was all useless, unless there is something more, and greater than it all. No good, precisely as food and light and air, as education and commerce and civilization, are no good to a dead man. Put life into him — then all these things shall wait upon him and minister to him and bless him. But he must live first. Sacraments, services, sermons, Scriptures, creeds, may minister to life — but there must be life first of all.
(Mark Guy Pearse.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.