I’ve officially given up that game of golf. Kevin can give me as many mulligans as he wants to; I do not enjoy the game. When it takes me at least 10 shots to hit that little golf ball into that little hole 300 yards away, by the second hole and twenty shots into it, I’m done! I’ve hit every tree lining the fairway; lost at least two balls into the little pond that the course designer thought would be fun to place in front of the green; and my shoes have enough sand to build a sandcastle because, though I refuse to hit out of sand traps, I still have to trudge down into them to fetch my pretty pink ball. Yep, I’m done. Do not even ask me if I want my mulligan! Mulligan – a redo shot, a chance to start over. No thank you! My shoulders hurt because I’ve whiffed and plunged my club into the dirt hardened rough. I wouldn’t take a mulligan if you paid me. Like I’ve said I’m done. I do not understand why anyone would even want to start over on that last drive.
I don’t understand mulligans while playing the game of golf and Nicodemus didn’t understand the mulligan of spiritual life.
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” John 3:3-6
I love the reset button on any of my smart devices. Phone acting up? Hit the reset button. Internet not fast enough? Hit the reset button. Direct ticket programming locked up? Unplug it and restart it. Anyway that’s my advice. Try it or not. It’s up to you. I’m not saying it’s wise advice. I’m just saying that what I do when I can’t get technology to work for me.
Do you think Nicodemus might have been scratching his head as he tried to decipher Jesus’ words at the onset of this conversation. “Are you telling me to hit the reset button? Are you giving me a mulligan to start my life over? What are you saying Jesus?”
Let’s take a mulligan and start over at the very beginning of this meeting.
It’s dark. Nicodemus enters the home where Jesus is staying. He has, as of this moment, unspoken questions on the tip of his tongue. He speaks a sentence to flatter Jesus and honor him. “Teacher, we know you are a teacher sent from God, because no one can do the miracles you do unless God is with him.” Nicodemus acknowledges Jesus’ authority as one sent from God. There is no Rabbinical diploma hanging above Jesus’ head. Nicodemus is searching. He knows Jesus wasn’t trained nor taught by any of the Master’s of Rabbinical school, yet he acknowledges Jesus’ wisdom. And that’s it. That is the salutary greeting that begins this meeting.
Jesus cuts to the chase. No back and forth bantering. No to and fro. No, “how are you?” No reciprocal flattery. He just gets to the nitty gritty of the true reason for Nicodemus’ visit. How did he even have a clue as to what Nicodemus was searching for? John 2:25 tells us, “He did not need anyone to tell him about people, because he knew what was in people’s minds.” Jesus gets to the heart of the matter because he knew what was in Nicodemus’ mind. Jesus gets to the heart of the matter with us because he knows what is in our minds also. Jesus knew Nicodemus needed these words; Jesus knew we needed this words. Jesus’ words here to Nicodemus are the foundation stone on which our salvation beliefs are set upon.
We must be born again. We need a mulligan. We need a restart. We were born sinful.
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5 NIV
As adorable as my three month old grandson is, and though I believe each of my grandsons are the most innocent of children, the bible says all of us were born sinful. Each of us have been born selfish. Each of us want to have our own way. That’s our initial DNA make up. We need a mulligan. That is what Jesus is offering here to Nicodemus, and that is what Jesus is offering to us. We need the Spirit of God to breathe in us a new beginning. The only way for that to happen is to accept the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that the world through Jesus might be saved. You must believe that Jesus died a brutal death on a cursed tree, and the blood he shed on the cross cleanses us from all sin. You must believe that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day. You must believe right now Jesus is preparing a place for you in heaven so that you can be with Him forever. Believe all that and you are born again. Born not of human flesh, but born of God. When we are born of God, we will see the kingdom of God. That is every thing Jesus promised in these first six verses in John chapter three.
It’s a free mulligan. A reset. A start over. Some golf tournaments make participants buy their mulligans. You can’t buy Jesus’ mulligan. See Nicodemus had a belief system set up that you could buy God’s favor. If you obeyed all the Law of God and studied it, then you could work to obtain God’s favor. Jesus was setting the record straight for Nicodemus. That’s not how it works in God’s kingdom. You can’t work hard enough, you can’t be good enough, and you cannot obey enough laws, to gain access to this mulligan God offers to you. It’s free. It costs you nothing. It cost God everything. It cost Jesus his life.
And that’s the mulligan God offers to each of us. It is the restart Jesus offered to Nicodemus.