I get how difficult it is to predict where the wind is going to blow. I live in Texas and it wrecks havoc with our weather. Tornados pop up out of nowhere. The wind seems to have a mind of its own.
There is a lesson in this. Jesus makes it clear. This is about the Spirit of God and the role the Spirit plays in transforming us.
5 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” | John 3:5-8 (CSB)
It is likely that the evening wind was blowing just then as Nicodemus and Jesus sat on the housetop conversing. The word wind in both Hebrew and Greek can also be translated “spirit.” One of the symbols of the Spirit of God in the Bible is the wind or breath. Like the wind, the Spirit is invisible but powerful; and you cannot explain or predict the movements of the wind.
When Jesus used this symbol, Nicodemus should have readily remembered Ezekiel (37:1–14). The prophet saw a valley full of dead bones; but when he prophesied to the wind, the Spirit came and gave the bones life. Again, it was the combination of the Spirit of God and the Word of God that gave life. The nation of Israel (including Nicodemus and his fellow religious elites) was dead and hopeless; but in spite of the morality and religion of the people, they needed the life of the Spirit. Don’t we all!
The word for “Spirit” also means “wind”. Jesus plays on these two meanings to draw an analogy with the Spirit’s activity from the activity of wind. Until the last statement the accent falls on wind; but since the wind doesn’t “will” anything, this verb implies the additional meaning “Spirit.” For as personal, the Spirit does will.
And “blows” is a verbal form of “wind/Spirit.” So we could also translate as follows: “The Spirit spirits where he wills”. This blowing, or spiriting, represents birthing people from above.
“Where it/he wills” emphasizes divine sovereignty in the birthing from above: “the Son makes alive those whom he wills [to make alive]” (5:21), and “You didn’t select me; rather, I selected you” (15:16). Hearing the sound of wind compares with hearing the voice of the Spirit so as to believe in Jesus. In fact, Jesus’ voice is heard in the Spirit’s voice, “Everyone who’s from the truth hears my voice,” “My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me”.
Just as Nicodemus doesn’t know where the wind comes from and where it goes, neither does he know where the Spirit comes from and goes. The Spirit’s heavenly origin and destination are unknown to human beings because they’ve never been there.
Contrast and compare Jesus’ statements:
- “I know where I came from and where I’m going. But you don’t know where I’m coming from or where I’m going,”
- “knowing … that he had come forth from God and is going to God.”
There’s a parallel between the Spirit and Jesus in the work of birthing from above, because he’s the bearer of the windy Spirit.
“Thus is everyone who has been born out of the Spirit” means that like the Spirit (and Jesus), those born out of the Spirit are from above in that the heaven-sent Spirit constitutes their true origin and guarantees their ultimate destination. Or as Jesus will put it, his disciples don’t originate from the world though they’re in the world; and he’ll ask that they may see him in his heavenly glory.
Here is the literal translation:
“The wind/Spirit blows where it/he wills [to blow], and you [singular again and following] hear its/his sound/voice. Nevertheless, you don’t know where it/he is coming from and where it/he is going. Thus is everyone who has been born out of the Spirit.”
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Jn 3:5–9). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (pp. 360–361). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 296). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.