Track with me on my thought process…
(John 3:3) “I tell you the truth, unless a man is Born Again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
(Matthew 18:3) “Except [you] be converted and become as little children, [you] shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Last week I was reading in the OT about Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, in Exodus 18:12. Jethro “took a burnt offering”. The commentary enlightens us that the burnt offering was related to him converting. It said in the commentary that he was “spiritually reborn” by the conversion. He immersed, was circumcised and gave a burnt offering. In Hebrew, to immerse is a mikveh. When someone even today converts to Judaism, they do a mikveh as part of the process. John the Baptist was even coined John the Immerser, as well. Let’s look at baptism or baptize: baptizō, from a derivative of βάπτω (G911), to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge. So, now we understand that baptism is the Greek translation of mikveh. Matt 3:6 And were baptized G907 of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
When we read John chapter 3:3, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that we have to be born again. In my keyword-study bible, Born Again is underlined. Keywords show- reborn, spiritual rebirth, convert, turn. Further study brought me to, “Born: of men who fathered children, and if you click the link for Born > Go to the section metaph. Notice point, B. “in a Jewish sense, of one who brings others over to his way of life, to convert someone.” In actuality, the only sense that Jesus or John had was their Jewish sense and Hebrew heritage. And then it all connected into an ah-ha moment!
So, let’s change it to it’s synonyms, Jesus tells Nicodemus that we have to reborn to see the Kingdom of Heaven. Again, let’s change it more closely. “Verily, verily, unless a man be converted, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Wait! That makes more sense, because John the Baptist (Immerser) is right there to get people into the water, from the Jewish perspective, into the mikveh. It makes perfect sense! After all, Jesus and John are both observant Jews and they understood what conversion meant and that a mikveh was needed.
In this light, Jesus never came to start a new religion of Christianity! How revolutionary. He was pointing people back to the Torah, the only Scripture that he knew, that housed all of God’s commandments. So simple, and yet it has eluded us for centuries. To follow his way. What was his way? The way of the Torah, to keep the commandments, as stated in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.” In order to have a spiritual rebirth, convert to Torah.
This is the trouble with so many bible translations, it gets diluted and the context changes. For instance, the New International Version, reads: “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Converted is removed and replaced with change. Immerse (mikvah) is replaced with baptism. How misleading! Perhaps it’s to discourage the true message of converting to the parent religion of Christianity, Judaism.
Instead of being grafted in, perhaps the path is to convert.