Good morning. I hope you are enjoying our look at the Gospel of John. Let me ask you a question: Have you ever heard someone say, "The Bible says you must be born again?" Well, today we will look at where that saying is derived.
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one cold perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him. In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:1-3)
It is amazing to me that people throw out Bible verses so readily without respecting the purpose behind what is being said. Jesus is having a lengthy conversation with a man named Nicodemus. Jesus rarely has a short conversation with anyone in John's gospel. What we know about the man Nicodemus is important to what is really being said in this passage. Nicodemus is a Pharisee and he is a member of the Jewish ruling council. Why is this important? In the Gospel of John the term "The Jews" occurs sixty-three times in the plural. *Verses three times in the singular. To give you a comparison, in the Gospel of Mark "The Jews" only appears six times, zero in the singular. In Matthew, five times in the plural (three at crucifixion), zero in singular. In Luke, three times in plural and zero in singular. So, for John to use the term on sixty-three occasions tells us that John wants us to know something about "The Jews." In the synoptic gospels "The Jews" represented the Jewish leadership. But, in John the term seems to indicate the whole group. For John, they are the enemy of Jesus. Nicodemus is one of the leaders.
One thing that separates Nicodemus from the rest, however, is that "he came to Jesus." But, notice! VERY IMPORTANT! DO NOT FORGET THIS!!!!! When did he come to Jesus? He came to Jesus at night. Now, the common view on this is that he came to Jesus at night because he didn't want anyone to know that he came to Jesus. We could imply that he didn't want his buddies to know. Well, I'm sure that he didn't want to be seen doing this, but I don't think that this is what John is wanting us to see. Do you remember in chapter one when we are told: "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it?" (John 1:5) In John, the darkness represents something more than just "a cover of darkness." It is a spiritual state. It represents that which is opposite of the light in which God gives through Jesus Christ. Therefore, Nicodemus is in the dark spiritually when he comes to Jesus.
Well, Jesus then first gives the line about being born again. Nicodemus is confused, indicating that he is unable to understand the deeper meaning of what Jesus has said. He is thinking in the natural by asking: "How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" (John 3:4) Nicodemus is a lot like me; he missed too many biology classes. So, this is a discussion comparing the natural to the spiritual. In John's gospel Jesus is the one who came from heaven. He is God in human form, borrowing a body. Jesus then says to Nicodemus: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." (John 3:5-6) I will not attempt to argue that Jesus is referring to baptism here when he mentions water. (although I do believe that is what he is referring to) We will speak more about baptism much later. What is Jesus saying? First of all, let us not forget that in Nicodemus' response to Jesus he mentioned that they (more than one besides him) knew that Jesus "has come from God." So, Nicodemus has at least been able to acknowledge the truth that Jesus is from God. *Nicodemus is on to more than he perhaps realizes. Now, when Jesus says that one "must be born again" he is using the word anothen. (The Greek translation) This word can either mean "again" or "above." Nicodemus takes it to mean "again." What Jesus is saying could also have double meaning. He did mean "again" but not in the way Nicodemus understood it. *Much to his mother's relief. To believe in Jesus is to be born a second time, which means to enter a new humanity composed of God's children. It means to come into the light, leaving the world of darkness. Ahhh...remember, Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. *AGAIN, DON"T FORGET THIS!!!!!!!!!
Well, we are not told in THIS PASSAGE (Capitalized for a reason that you will discover later) whether of not Nicodemus was "born again." Jesus even admonished him: "You are Israel's teacher and do you not understand these things?" (John 3:10)
Well, if you continue reading chapter three you will discover that it is in this passage that we find the one verse that most people are familiar with: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son (KJV) that whosoever believes in him shall not parish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) But, please notice, this stems from the conversation that Jesus is having with Nicodemus. This sums up that Jesus came into the world of darkness and those who accept the light and life he brings will be with him forever. Those who do not accept him have condemned themselves already. (verse18) John 3:16 is a part of a long discourse of light. In fact, the entire passage concludes with Jesus saying: "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:21) *AS I HAVE SAID, DON'T FORGET THIS PASSAGE!!!!
Tomorrow we will look at another interesting character that only John introduces us to. You will not want to miss our discussion of Jesus and the woman at the well. Have a blessed day! -Pastor Rick