Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Looking for meaning in the concept of a formerly ostracized now-declared-clean leper, let's follow the path of his rehabilitation in the presence of the Almighty and amidst the community of Israel. One of the last stages is a tevilah טבילה, or an immersion, commonly called in Greek: baptismo. Our sages have always understood ritual immersion as an illustration of being born-again. They say that people "immerse in order to emerge a born-again new creature in God" (Yevamot 47b and 48b). The whole idea illustrates returning into the maternal waters in order to be reborn. In a sense, this pronounced clean leper now shaved from head to toe looked like a new-born baby and was going to immerse in baptismal waters of rebirth (Leviticus 14:9). He was one who was alive, who went though some form of death, was healed of this death, and was now going to be reborn as a new/renewed creature.
In ancient Israel, the idea of the born-again ritual immersion was used as a mode of proselityzation, for people desiring to become Jewish. The idea is that as they totally immersed, it was as though they died. They went in the water as pagan Gentiles, they died and were reborn as new "members of the commonwealth of Israel" (Ephesians 2:12).In a sense again, he who was alive died and was reborn a new/renewed creature.
When Yeshua therefore tells Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3), the Master actually tells the great teacher of Israel that unless he goes through a procedure of conversion to Judaism, he cannot be a part of the Kingdom of God. That explains the shocked teacher’s answer, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born? (John 3:4)" By this he meant, "How can I convert to Judaism if I am already Jewish?" To which Rabbi Yeshua wisely answers, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5-6), or in other words, “It is not enough to be well bred; you must also have an immersion of repentance from sin!” This was the reoccurring theme in both John the Immerser and Yeshua’s teaching (Matthew 3:9–11).
Saved and redeemed Israel went through rebirth through a national /immersion. Both the converted pagan proselyte and the leper enter the community of Israel through rebirth/immersion. What does this teach us? All of us share the fate of the leper. We are all lepers in his sight and we all need healing and rebirth through immersion. That's what Yeshua told Nicodemus.
The master sent us into all the world to make disciples of all nations by immersing them (Matthew 28:19:20). Reborn that we are, may we remember each day to also immerse in his renewing words that we may continue in the new life he died to give us.
P. Gabriel Lumbroso
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