7.30.17 ~ John 3:1-15, “Nic at Night”
Last week we studied what happened at the temple when Christ cleansed it, turning over tables and loosing animals and birds, admonishing the merchants and religious leaders, for they had turned God’s house into a marketplace.
Read John 3:1-4... Nicodemus was a Pharisee [from a Hebrew word meaning, “separated”].
Pharisees were legalistic adherents to the Law of Moses, representing the orthodox core of Judaism, they wee committed to a detailed following of the Law, and also the traditions passed down by the elders, often elevating their own traditions and manmade laws to the level of the Torah [the Law of God revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five Books of the Hebrew Scriptures].
The Pharisees had a strong influence over the people who wrongly associated their religious piety and zeal with God’s righteousness. Pharisees were fanatical about law-keeping, and had, in fact, added hundreds of their own laws to God’s Law, e.g., it is ok to eat an egg laid by a chicken on the Sabbath, but the chicken must then be killed the next day for violating the Sabbath. Swallowing vinegar is ok on the Sabbath, but gargling it constituted labor and was forbidden.
Nicodemus [lit. “victor or conqueror over the people”] was a respected leader of the Jews and a prominent Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin [their Supreme Court], made up of 71 prominent Rabbis who judged both civil and criminal cases in Israel.
Nicodemus was aware of Jesus’ teachings and His miracles, so he came to Jesus under cover of night, not wanting the other religious leaders to know of his visit. He acknowledged that Jesus must be from God because of the miraculous signs (there had been no prophet for 400 years, then John appeared, pointing to Jesus).
Nic says (v. 2), “We know that you are from God,” but Jesus doesn't acknowledge his statement; instead, He confronts Nic about his lack of understanding about spiritual truth (v. 3), “no one can see the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again [lit. born from above].
Nic is perplexed and asks (v. 4), “How can a grown man be born again?” Rabbis often used symbols, figures of speech and contrasts to teach spiritual truth; and so, I believe Nic wasn’t talking about being physically born again, but most likely he meant, “it's too late for me to change my religious system of belief and practice, it is my whole life, all I know and believe in. How can I discard that and start all over again?”
Read John 3:5-8... Jesus answers Nic, basically, telling him he will not go to heaven unless he is “born of water and of Spirit,” for “flesh gives birth to flesh, and Spirit gives birth to Spirit.”
What is Jesus talking about? Some possibilities:
1. physical birth [water], spiritual birth [Spirit]: twice born
2. John’s baptism with water was for repentance (but couldn’t save anyone);
Spirit = Jesus’ baptism by the Spirit brought salvation and eternal life into the family of God (see Mark 1:4-5, 8).
3. “Water” when used in conjunction with “spirit,” figuratively refers to renewal or spiritual cleansing (see Titus 3:4-6).
You must be spiritually cleansed, purified and reborn! Obeying the Law and engaging in religious rituals cannot provide or produce eternal life!
Note: Pharisees believed they would enter God’s Kingdom because of their Jewish heritage and law keeping. They produced external acts of piety, but were internally and eternally void of God’s righteousness.
Christ challenged Nic to forsake all he believed about becoming acceptable to God through acts of pious law keeping, pointing out that righteousness can’t be earned or acquired by human effort. Nicodemus represents the proud orthodox Jews of his day, they may of had good intentions but were ignorant concerning God’s Truth.
Jesus says (v. 7), “You shouldn’t be surprised at my saying ‘You must be born again’” Nic was a leading Pharisee and a teacher of Israel -- he of all people should understand this method of teaching truth.
Jesus tells Nic (v. 8), “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
So, the new birth is like the wind. It cannot be seen, but the effects are clearly visible, e.g., kites flying high in the sky, windmills turning, ships driven by full sails, the destruction caused by hurricanes and tornadoes. This new birth is spiritual, it cannot be seen, but the change in behavior it causes can be clearly seen.
This new birth is from death to life, darkness into light. From the moment of conception (in the womb), a baby exists in total darkness, receiving sustenance in that environment; then at birth, that baby is brought into the light and must now be sustained and nourished in his new environment. That child can never go back into the womb, and although he will ultimately die, he can never become unborn.
Likewise, a spiritually born child of God can’t become spiritually unborn (Romans 11:29 says this new birth, new life from God, is irrevocable).
Read John 3:9-10... This is upsetting and very unsettling to Nic, he can’t believe what he was hearing, ”How can these things be?”
Jesus admonishes “the” Teacher of Israel, saying, ”and you don't understand?" Christ's rebuke illuminated how little Nic (and the other Pharisees) really understood from the scriptures they diligently studied and 'taught'.
See John 5:39-40... Knowledge of the Scriptures, so-called righteous acts, religious rituals and rigid living will not earn favor with God, let alone will it secure salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven!
This new birth is the work of God. We must trust Him completely, believe in Him implicitly, and put our faith in Him absolutely. Every person who confesses their sins, trusting and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior receives this birth, which is: spiritual, invisible, immortal, incorruptible and eternal.
We can do nothing of our own merit to earn this acceptance by God. Any works of righteousness that we think we have accomplished -- apart from Christ -- are nothing but rank and decaying sewage (Isaiah 64:6), “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Read John 3:11-13... No one has access to God the Father except God the Son. No one has been to or come from heaven, only the Son of God, and only He can reveal heavenly wisdom and truth.
Read John 3:14-15... Jesus sites a story from the OT to illustrate genuine righteousness, based not on works, but on God’s GRACE through Christ.
In Numbers 21:4-9, a grumbling and rebellious people are dying, until they finally repented! They were told, if they were bitten by the poisonous vipers, to look to the bronze snake lifted up by Moses, trusting in God, and they would be healed (physically), i.e., saved!
This was a prediction of the coming death of Jesus Christ, for He also was going to be lifted up! He would be elevated above the earth and executed [crucified] for the sins of mankind (see John 8:24-25, 29; 10:30; 12:32-34); only those who turn to Christ to save them will receive eternal [spiritual] life.
Nic knew this story, but he didn't 'understand' the spiritual nature of its meaning,
i.e., that forgiveness and eternal life cannot be earned this is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Nicodemus came to Christ in darkness; but did he ever come into the Light of Christ (John 1:1-5)?
John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
So, what happened to Nicodemus?
John 7:32, “The chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Jesus.” 45-50, “the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, "Why didn't you bring Him in?" "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared... Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”
John 19:38-39, “Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.”
It goes on to say, “Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.”
1Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Ephesians 5:8, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”
Colossians 1:13-14, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
I believe we’ll see Nicodemus in heaven, because I am confident Nic came out of the darkness into the Light of Christ, confessing his sins and believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Romans 10:9-13, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
In His Grip, Pastor Mike <‘(((><