My Corner Online


Reading through the Gospels 34

John 3:1-15


Nicodemus was a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews (high council called the Sanhedrin). Nicodemus came to Jesus at night.  Why?  Maybe he snuck away so the other Pharisees and rulers would not see him visit Jesus. Nicodemus wanted to find out the truth for himself.  This is a great example for me to not merely trust what others say every time, but to find out the truth first hand for myself. Maybe he came at night when less people would be around to interrupt. Nicodemus, as a Pharisee, was religious, and as a ruler, was influential.


Nicodemus came calling Him "Rabbi (teacher) exclaiming that Jesus must really be God because of all the things He had done.  Jesus began his reply, "truly, truly."  He is agreeing with Nicodemus's statement that He is God. [However, someone who is not God can do miraculous things too.  2 Thessalonians says, "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders." See also Revelation 13:13-14.]   Then Jesus continues by teaching, "unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”   Nicodemus and the Israelites thought that as descendants of Abraham, not Gentiles, they had assurance of heaven. Jesus is for all people and a birth on earth does not guarantee heaven.  The Greek word for "again" can also be translated as "from above." To be born from above is to be born again.


Curious Nicodemus does not understand, thinking only of an earthly birth, being born again while old, or being born out of the womb. Then Jesus continues by teaching Nicodemus that a person is born of water (baptized) and the Spirit (not John's baptism, but baptism by the Holy Spirit) to enter the kingdom of God and "that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Nicodemus must have had an astonished look on his face because Jesus continues, "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'  Ephesians 5:26 says, "having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" and John 7:38 says, "Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." Titus 3:5 says, "he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit."  Nicodemus may have identified with Ezekiel 36:25-26, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." This verse could also be interpreted as being born of water (in womb) and the Spirit (in the heart). What Jesus says is a prophecy because the Holy Spirit first became available to all believers at Pentecost (Acts 2).


Jesus continues to teach that being born of the Spirit is like the wind blowing and not knowing where it comes from or where it goes. [The Greek word used means both wind and spirit] We cannot see the wind, but we believe the wind is there by its effects.  Just like we do not understand the comings and goings of the wind, we do not understand everything about being born again, but we see the effects.  What effect does my baptism have? How has it transformed me? Neither do we understand everything about the Holy Spirit and how He works, because He is God as the third person of the Trinity and who could understand all about God? What effect does the Holy Spirit have on me? Just like I cannot control the wind, I cannot control either of my births.  Both births are a gift from God.


Inquisitive Nicodemus inquiries for more information, "how can this be?" and Jesus continues indicating that Nicodemus is a teacher of the people of Israel, and as of such an important position, should understand, but does not, even after "we" (Jesus and disciples) bear witness.  Jesus continues in saying that Nicodemus does not even believe earthly things, so how can he believe heavenly things. Nicodemus knew the Old Testament scriptures, but did not know Jesus.  The writer, John, continues with the theme of "who Jesus is."


Jesus continues by stating that the Son of Man is the only one {that will} ascend into heaven because He has descended from heaven; that the Son of Man will be lifted up like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.  The story of Moses and the serpent is in Numbers 21:4-9 and verse 9 says, "So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live."  A bronze serpent represented judged as sinful, but looking at it, one would live.  The same is for Jesus who also judges us as sinful, but if we look at Him, we will live. The people (bitten by serpent or sin) do not do anything but turn and look.  Isaiah 45:22 says, "“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other."  The "lifted up" is a reference to Jesus on the cross and Jesus's resurrection.


Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus? He was curious to learn and had a good attitude.  Most Pharisees were hypocrites.  Matthew 3:7 says, "when he (John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!" Nicodemus did not challenge Jesus like the other Pharisees.  Teachers should never stop learning.  Nicodemus would continue to give Jesus credit by encouraging others to see for themselves, speaking in Jesus's defense, in John 7:50-51, "Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”

Copyright Cheryl Rutledge-Brennecke
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