Have you ever heard someone describe something, that brought a picture to your mind, but then when you actually saw it, it didn’t look anything like you had pictured?
This can happen often with Biblical truth. We can hear something, then we interpret what we think that means through the grid of our understanding, only to come to find out that our understanding was lacking. Let’s see how Jesus handled that very thing with Nicodemus.
The Passage: John 2:23-3:21
- What compelled Nicodemus to come to see Jesus?
- How does Jesus handle Nicodemus? What does He challenge Him with?
- How does Jesus refer to Nicodemus? (3:1, 3:10)
- What references does Jesus make to the Spirit?
- What do you think the significance was of Jesus comparison between born of Spirit, and born of the flesh?
- What does Jesus define as the condition for entering the kingdom?ined this because of the title by which he is referred to, “Are you THE teacher of Israel…” (John 3:10) This would have happened around age 50.
Nicodemus had reached the pinnacle of success in the Jewish eyes. In Jewish tradition, each milestone a young Jewish man could attain was considered a “new birth.” According to Fruchenbaum there were actually 6 such occasions in the Jewish tradition. the first 2 were to specific situations, gentile conversion to Judaism and becoming a king. Naturally, Nicodemus could not obtain those 2. But the other 4 were “new births” that every Jewish man sought to attain.
1. Bar Mitzvah - rights of passage to manhood at age 13
2. Marriage - Nicodemus would have married by age 20 - Marriage was a requirement to be a member of the Sanhedrin which he was.
3. Rabbinical Ordination - Nicodemus was ordained as a Rabbi around age 30.
4. Becoming the head of a Rabbinical school. We know Nicodemus atta
Nicodemus had been “born again” in every way possible for a Jewish man. He had arrived. The only way for him to be receive another “new birth” and be “born again” another time, would be to start the whole process over again.
But, Nicodemus was only looking at what he had accomplished in the flesh. In essence, when Jesus told Nicodemus “Ye must be born again,” He was saying, “May I suggest another way of thinking!” “You must be born of water (physical) AND of the Spirit. Unless you are born of the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
This was a slow process for Nicodemus. Although Jesus offered salvation to Nicodemus that night, it took time for Nicodemus to accept the truth. But, when we see him in John 7:50 he is defending Jesus. And by the time we get to John 19 him again in John 19:39 he is helping prepare his body for burial. He came to experience the indwelling life.
Whoever believes may have eternal life. Simple enough for a child, and yet the most knowledgeable “religious” person couldn’t comprehend it until the Spirit worked in his heart. While simple, it is only understood with spiritual sight.
Nicodemus, in a way, represents human’s / fleshly understanding of God’s plans. Nicodemus was Israel’s teacher, the best educated, the most knowledgeable on the law… and yet in all his knowledge He could only picture the natural, the physical. He could not comprehend Jesus, and the indwelling life of Christ through the Spirit.
Jesus makes reference to the indwelling Spirit, the comforter of who He will promise to his disciples in John 14, and whom they will experience in Acts 2. This will change their life so much that they will not be able to stop talking about it. (Acts 5:17-42 )
This is the same thing that Paul describes as the “much more” of our salvation in Rom 5:10. Being born of Spirit. This was a future event when Jesus spoke these words to Nicodemus. Man, being born of the Spirit, was only possible through the resurrection of Jesus. When He died, he not only died to pay the penalty of our sin, but he rose again, to replace what we are, to replace our old life with the Spirit… to be born not of flesh, but of the Spirit!
Jesus was not just offering heaven someday. He was offering Himself right here, right now. Eternal life to whoever believes… beginning the moment we believe!
What is it going to take for you to leave behind your own way of thinking? Your own striving to earn God’s acceptance and approval, living for yourself?
Nicodemus and his peers thought they were the religious elite. They thought they had all the answers. But they were the blind leading the blind. It’s not until we give up our own way of thinking and embrace God’s way that we will find freedom and conformity to His image.
JF Strombeck, in “Disciplined by Grace” said it so well, “To be occupied with endless questions as to what should and should not be done, brings distress and enslaves to soul. But to be occupied with Christ, and his mercy and grace, brings freedom and conformity to His image.”
May you become more and more occupied with Christ, as Nicodemus was, and find in Him eternal life for today!