JOHN PART 7
John 3:1-8 TNIV – 1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” 4 “How can anyone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.”
INTRO: Last week we saw Jesus clearing the Temple. Remember at the end of Chapter 2, though Jesus was drawing a crowd, He didn’t entrust Himself to them, because He knew the condition of their heart. Here as we begin to discuss this story of Jesus private meeting with Nicodemus, we see something different – He entrusts Himself to Nicodemus. He opens Himself up to Him.
Now there is an important lesson that we can find in this passage. Sometimes we think that significant ministry is only found and accomplished in front of crowds, or even large crowds. And certainly Jesus did that. But here we see a very significant ministry, not to the large crowd, but to one person – a person that was truly seeking the truths that Jesus had to share. Sometimes we may have a ministry to the crowds, but we should never abandon ministry to the one, solitary seeker – God may want to use us to speak powerfully into their lives.
This is what happens here. Let’s look.
1. A late night visit.
Verses 1-2 TNIV – 1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Two contrast: Nicodemus and the crowd.
John 2:23-25 TNIV – 23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need human testimony about them, for he knew what was in them.
Both came to believe in Jesus because of the signs He was doing (2:23; 3:2). The crowds came to see Jesus during the day, while Nicodemus came by himself during the night. Jesus didn’t entrust Himself to the crowds, but He did to Nicodemus. While the crowds could not be trusted, Jesus felt that Nicodemus could.
Nicodemus was a man of religion (v. 1).
Just a little background information concerning him. His name was common among the Hellenistic Jews and Greeks, which means in all likely-hood he was born into a Greek speaking Jewish family. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Basically in Jewish religion, the Pharisee’s were like we have today – a denomination amongst other denominations in Judaism. Literally the name Pharisee means, “separated ones.” Unlike many Jews of that day, the Pharisees chose to remain separate from the Greek philosophy and culture of their day. They did this by holding fast to all of the Jewish traditions. Not only did they hold the written Law of Moses (first 5 books in the Old Testament) as sacred Scripture, they also held their oral traditions concerning Scripture and daily life on equal footing. So Nicodemus was in all likely-hood born into a Greek culture, hence his Greek name, but he abandoned it for traditional Phariseeic Judaism.
Nicodemus was a man with authority (v.1).
Scripture says he was a ruler of the Jews. He held a position of authority. He Greek name itself signifies authority. It means, “victor over the crowd.” In all likely-hood, he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling supreme court of Israel.
Nicodemus came to meet Jesus at night (v. 1).
There are several theories out there as to why Nicodemus meet Jesus at night. Some people feel that he might have done this because he was afraid or maybe ashamed to be seen with Jesus in the daytime. While this is possible, I personally don’t believe this is the reason. He might have wanted to visit with Jesus one on one, in private without the crowds there. Lat we see that Nicodemus speaks out in defense of Jesus.
John 7:45-52 TNIV – 45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied. 47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”
Nicodemus was a man convinced (v. 2).
Some scholars place significance in the fact that Nicodemus doesn’t say “I know,” but “We know.” They suggest that he could have came as a representative of others or even other Pharisees that were truly seeking what Jesus had to say. Whether this is true or not, he confesses that Jesus is a teacher sent from God. He knows this from the signs that he sees Jesus perform. Nicodemus recognized that what Jesus did was a power that came from God.
2. The new birth.
Verses 3-8 TNIV – 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” 4 “How can anyone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.”
Nicodemus began this conversation with Jesus by basically paying Him compliments.
But notice what Jesus is going to say and not going to say in response to him. He will not say, “Why thank you Rabbi. That is a very impressive thing to say about me, especially coming from you, an educated Pharisee.” He did not say, “You are very observant to the fact that I do come from God.” Neither does He say, “So you are impressed by the signs I perform? Which one impressed you the most?” Instead of talking about any of the things that Nicodemus says, Jesus instantly changes the subject and goes for the jugular. He comes right to the point and heart of the matter. It is almost as if Jesus is saying, “Now don’t miss this Nicodemus – you must be born again.
A special birth.
Verse 3a AMP – Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above)…
The Greek text of this verse can be understood in one of two ways: As born again, or as born from above. It means both in Greek and both are true.
A Kingdom Need.
Verse 3b AMP – he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God.
For Nicodemus, being a Pharisee and a first century Jew, this would have been particularly relevant to him. Something if often missed when people read this passage is the emphasis of the Kingdom that Jesus placed. Nicodemus knew about the Kingdom of God. He was a Pharisee, trained up in the Jewish Scriptures, so he was familiar with the Old Testament prophesies concerning the Kingdom. He knew that the Kingdom would come at a time when the Messiah was revealed and that He would begin His Kingdom in Jerusalem and that it would extend to the whole world. Jesus even said that when the power of the Holy Spirit fell on them, that their witness would begin in Jerusalem and extend to the whole earth.
Acts 1:8 TNIV – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
John the Baptist had come on the scene crying out for people to repent because the Kingdom was at hand and about to be manifested. Then Jesus comes and announces that the Kingdom is not just coming, but in Him it has arrived, and in order to become a part of this Kingdom you need a birth, and not just an ordinary birth, but a new birth.
Verse 4 AMP – Nicodemus said to Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother’s womb again and be born?
Nicodemus misses the point entirely. He does not realize that Jesus is speaking of a spiritual birth. He interprets Jesus words with a rigid literalism.
A two-fold requirement.
Verse 5 AMP – Jesus answered, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, unless a man is born of water and [even] the Spirit, he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God.
There have been a number of suggested interpretations to this verse. Primarily it has to revolve around the identity of water in this passage. What does it mean to be born of water? Here are a few interpretations:
• Water Baptism – These that hold to this hold to a doctrine commonly called, “baptismal regeneration.” The belief is that one is born again by the physical act of baptism. The problem with this belief is that the Scriptures are clear elsewhere that states we are saved by grace through faith and apart from any outward ritualism such as circumcision and baptism.
• Physical birth – This view sees Jesus as making a contrast between the physical birth and the spiritual birth. Born of water refer to physical birth.
• The Word of God – This view looks to passages such as Ephesians 5:26 (cleansed by the washing of water with the word) and 1 Peter 1:23 (you have been born again…by the word of God) and see this water as a reference to the Scriptures.
• The Holy Spirit – This final view translates the word “and” as “even” to say that one is born of water – even the Spirit. (AMP translates it this way as well). This view uses Ezekiel 36:25-27 as its guide which states that God would sprinkle clean water and give a new heart and a new spirit to His people.
Which view is correct? They all have some good points to suggest, though there is an obvious problem with baptismal regeneration. My personal view aligns more closely with physical birth. The reason, you are not pulling out so much Old Testament and New Testament texts and stretching them to make them fit you interpretation into the passage. My view is physical birth because of what the next verse says as well.
A spiritual contrast.
Verse 6 AMP – What is born of [from] the flesh is flesh [of the physical is physical]; and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Jesus contrasts physical birth and spiritual new birth here.
Jesus sermon illustration.
Verse 8 AMP – The wind blows (breathes) where it wills; and though you hear its sound, yet you neither know where it comes from nor where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
The reason that Jesus brings up this illustration is because Nicodemus is having a hard time understanding this concept. Jesus uses the example of the wind. It is a great illustration to use because the Greek word for spirit, is the same for wind, or breath as well – Pneuma. Why does Jesus use this play on words? I think it is because He is painting for Nicodemus a word picture of the work of the Spirit using the wind. Try to look at the wind. You cannot see it. You do not know from where it came from. You do not know where it is going. But you believe it is there. Why? Because you see and feel its affects of the physical world around you. You see the trees sway, you feel the cool breeze, you see the waves on the waters. You see these evidences of the wind and they convince you that the wind is at work. What is what the new birth is like. You cannot see it. But you know that it is true and real because you experience its affects.
CONCL: We will continue with Jesus conversation with Nicodemus next week.