John Chapter 3 -Nicodemus
“Now there was among the Pharisees a man named Nicodemus, who was one of the rulers of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, Rabbi, we are certain that you have come from God as a teacher, because no man would be able to do these signs which you do if God was not with him. Jesus said to him, Truly, I say to you, Without a new birth no man is able to see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus said to him, How is it possible for a man to be given birth when he is old? Is he able to go into his mother's body a second time and come to birth again? Jesus said in answer, Truly, I say to you, If a man's birth is not from water and from the Spirit, it is not possible for him to go into the kingdom of God. That which has birth from the flesh is flesh, and that which has birth from the Spirit is spirit. Do not be surprised that I say to you, It is necessary for you to have a second birth. The wind goes where its pleasure takes it, and the sound of it comes to your ears, but you are unable to say where it comes from and where it goes: so it is with everyone whose birth is from the Spirit.
And Nicodemus said to him, How is it possible for these things to be? And Jesus, answering, said, Are you the teacher of Israel and have no knowledge of these things? Truly, I say to you, We say that of which we have knowledge; we give witness of what we have seen; and you do not take our witness to be true. If you have no belief when my words are about the things of earth, how will you have belief if my words are about the things of heaven? And no one has ever gone up to heaven but he who came down from heaven, the Son of man. As the snake was lifted up by Moses in the waste land, even so it is necessary for the Son of man to be lifted up: So that whoever has faith may have in him eternal life.
For God had such love for the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever has faith in him may not come to destruction but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to be judge of the world; he sent him so that the world might have salvation through him. The man who has faith in him does not come up to be judged; but he who has no faith in him has been judged even now, because he has no faith in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the test by which men are judged: the light has come into the world and men have more love for the dark than for the light, because their acts are evil. The light is hated by everyone whose acts are evil and he does not come to the light for fear that his acts will be seen. But he whose life is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his acts have been done by the help of God.”
John 3:1-21 (The Bible in Basic English)
This is the first of two conversations we will be looking at which John used to communicate the central role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
John chose these two to be representative of the many hundreds of conversations Jesus must have had in his three year ministry as John put it at the end of the Gospel,
Jn 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written
I don’t want to steal Chrissies thunder from next week, but let’s look at the contrast of these two conversations.
1. Intellectual academic, leader, man, rich, accepted, listened to, authoritative, compassionate, clever, wise- but he is a Pharisee, purity, law, apartness,
Woman of Samaria
2. Uneducated, down to earth, outcast, female, poor, rejected, follower, calculating?, desperate, impulsive, Samaritan, physical, promiscuous.
Ok let’s briefly look a lttle bit more at this guy Nicodemus .
From the Gospel account we know his name and there are persuasive arguments that this guy was part of the wealthy Ben Gurion Family, mentioned in both the Roman scholars Josephus and Tacitus.
He was a Pharisee and we simply know these as the baddies and the word has come down to us in that way.
But we must not be hard on them they were strong followers of the law, but many had lost their way deifying the law. But we must remember the purity of Judaism had been a sore point all thro the exiles Ezra read the law and all repented.
(Possible digression re the black hats in Westerns)
So he was a Pharisee.
He was also part of the Sanhedrin- 71 members sat in the Great Sanhedrin in the temple at Jerusalem; a cross between the House of Commons, the cabinet and yet under the occupation severely limited in its power.
None the less he was an M.P. and famous for it; a teacher and a leader.
2. A bit of Context
We need to remember that because of who he was and because of what he says first to Jesus we know he must have been in the Temple courts in the days of that Passover feast described in Ch 2. We better hae a quick skim glance at it.
Three particular verses. Verses 15-16, 18 & 23
“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
Jn 2:16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
Jn 2:18 Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
Jn 2:23 “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.”
We know Nicodemus was there because of his question in verse 2 of Chapter 3
Nicodemus had seen all this for himself and all the evidence both here and in Chapters 7 & 19 lead me to believe that Nicodemus was a Gospel writer’s source for these events. – which also leads me to conclude that he became a committed follower of Christ after the resurrection.
3. Pulling the rug from under Nicodemus
Nicodemus says in verse 2
"For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Wow look at those signs.!
But Jesus reduces what had been intended as a complement to ashes.
I will paraphrase Jesus (always dangerous I know)
If you are going to judge me by the signs you have seen you have got it all wrong.
No-one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.
Nicodemus your whole life is based on the wrong parenthood, the wrong seed the wrong foundation.
This has HUGE implications for us. I am going to be talking in a minute about rebirth and being born of water and the spirit. Most of us here would imagine that such a presentation would be aimed at those who do not believe. These verses have been described as the Gospel in a nutshell.
Nicodemus believed and confessed Jesus to be from God. Jesus pulled the rug from under his feet and this verse should do the same for all of us.
But we are in danger of being just like a Pharisee. They turned the law into a God. We can be as much in danger of turning signs and wonders into a God. But why do we want signs and wonders. Why did Jesus perform miracles of healing?
Multiple Choice question
A. Because of his compassion for the sick and he was the son of God
B. Because He wanted to show them He was the son of God
C. Because there was no NHS
Come and see the signs and wonders OR come and meet the risen Christ - YES of course the one should surely follow the other. But It is the Kingdom of God we are building not a magic show.
Nicodemus your passion for the law makes you seek for the things of heaven to be evidenced by physical signs.
The greatest miracles of all happen inside the heart of a man and are spiritual, not physical.
4. Going back to the beginning.
So Jesus says this to Nicodemus Unless a man is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Unless he is born of water and the spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
It is tempting from Nicodemus’ response to suppose that the idea of rebirth and baptism were alien to Nicodemus.
But they were not. Baptism was and still is a means of purification for Jews and baptism is used for converts to Judaism.
Ezekiel 36 would have been more familiar to Nicodemus than it is to us.
Eze 36:24 “ ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.
Eze 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
Eze 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Eze 36:27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Jesus was looking into Nicodemus soul and seeing that it’s very foundations were built on the conviction that Heaven could be gained by right behaviour.
He told him you have to be born again with a different foundation.
Nicodemus is telling him, I’m too old to change. He is still thinking it’s a behavioural change needed and that he won’t be able to do it.
If I do pray every day maybe that will be good enough. NOTHING you DO could ever be good enough.
You have to have a different beginning a different heart be born not of flesh but of Spirit.Jesus looks at Nicodemus and with his whole being calls out to this man saying
Truly I tell you That which is born of flesh is just that flesh, but that which is born of the Holy Spirit is Spirit.
Jesus is saying If you want to rely on your humanity to get you through –You will fail- But there is another way. The way of the Spirit.
5. The way of the Spirit.
It is easy to imagine a cool night breeze blowing across the roof they were sitting on staring across the city. Jesus turns to him and says
“The wind goes where its pleasure takes it, and the sound of it comes to your ears, but you are unable to say where it comes from and where it goes: so it is with everyone whose birth is from the Spirit.”
This is not something you have studied or read, arrived at by committee or come at by tradition
It is a matter of faith
Nicodemus is stumped by this and Jesus helps him out with a prompt from the Old Testament story of the bronze serpent which he also used as a prophecy for his own death.
Nu 21:8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
Nu 21:9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
The world Nicodemus had known had been turned upside down in one conversation. He would never be the same again and we have to believe that these words of Christ caused him to put his faith in Jesus.
For God had such love for Nicodemus that he gave his only Son, so that Nicodemus whoever having faith in him may not come to destruction but have eternal life. God did not send his Son to Nicodemus to be judge of Nicodemus; he sent him so that the Nicodemus might have salvation through him.
By the end of next week I hope you may have identified yourself somewhere on the scale between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. But Jesus comes to them both and offers them a life in the Holy Spirit born from faith in Him
A life not of legalism or rejection but of love and grace.