Sometime early in His ministry, Jesus had an interesting encounter with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. We aren't told much about this particular Pharisee. In fact, the grand total of what we know is found in John 3:1-20, as well as in one tiny verse in John 19:
1. Nicodemus was a Pharisee ("There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews" John 3:1 NKJV).
2. He was afraid of what the other
teachers of the law thought, for he came to Jesus by night ("This
man came to Jesus by night
. . ."
John 3:2a NKJV).
3. He believed Jesus to be a "teacher from God" (". . . And said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God . . ." John 3:2b NKJV).
4. He was following Jesus' career (".
. . For no one can do these signs that
You do unless God is with him."
John 3:2c NKJV).
5. He was a deep thinker, one who put everything to the test of his own personal life experiences ("How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" John 3:4 NKJV).
6. He is open to Jesus' teachings, for his
responses show a searching heart rather than a mocking one ("Nicodemus
answered and said to Him, 'How can these things be?'"
John 3:9 NKJV).
7. And finally, Nicodemus supplied the spices for Jesus' burial ("And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds." John 19:39 NKJV).
In summary, Nicodemus typifies the
category of the lost person searching for Truth. And as a result, this
exchange speaks not just to Nicodemus of old, but to each and every
lost, searching child of God!
The next three devotionals in this series will be looking directly at what this exchange has to teach us about spiritual rebirth, but for today, we'll spend a few moments looking at what preliminary lessons can be learned from the exchange itself!
Nicodemus begins by stating that he believes Jesus is sent of God, for "no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." (John 3:2 NIV)
It's quite a complement, but I find it very interesting that Jesus completely ignores this introduction, and instead, appears to jump to a completely different topic!
Why would Jesus do such a thing?
In order to teach us how to deal with flattery! He doesn't deny Nicodemus' words, but He also doesn't dwell on them. He simply jumps to the heart of the matter!
We are told to encourage one another, yet
for many of us who struggle with pride, that encouragement we receive
quickly mounts to our heads. The next time someone gives out some
encouragement, why not follow Jesus' example? Let's don't dwell on the
compliment, but rather, let's get on to the heart of the exchange!
And that's what Jesus does: "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3 NIV)
Wait a minute. Maybe Jesus hasn't completely skirted the topic after all! Nicodemus just stated that God must be with Jesus because of the many miracles He has performed, and Jesus responds by pointing out to Nicodemus that he can't even contemplate what the kingdom of God is like unless he is born again!
Nicodemus' response shows that he has only a surface knowledge of the Kingdom of God, and it serves to prove Jesus' point nicely: "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)
The lesson here is clear, friends: The
moment we think we have it all figured out, we need to realize how
hopeless it is to try to understand the things of the Kingdom of God on
"I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:5,6 NIV)
There is more than one level to life, friends. We live in the physical, as Nicodemus' response so nicely illustrates. But there is also a spiritual level, one that we lost at Eden. And now, thousands of years later, we've lived so long without it that we don't even realize it exists, let alone do we see our need for it! As a result, we try to measure everything on the physical plain, and our comprehension is oh, so limited!
But in His exchange with Nicodemus, Jesus is trying to take us deeper. He wants us to understand things from the spiritual level, the level He sees life on, and He is giving us the key to doing so: Spiritual Rebirth.
Are you interested in taking the plunge, friends? Are you interested in learning about the Kingdom of God from the spiritual plain? Then join us next week for JESUS AND NICODEMUS, Part 2: The Benefits of Rebirth.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Speech-Language Pathologist, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org.
(To access the entire "Jesus and Nicodemus: A Study on Rebirth" mini-series, please click here.)