< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Nicodemus

Friday, August 03, 2007


Nicodemus is mentioned only in the Gospel of John, but he appears 3 different times there. He was an older man and not only a Pharisee, which was the strictest, most religiously informed sect, but also a member of the Sanhedrin and therefore a ruler among the Jews.

He came to Jesus in the night. He didn’t really know enough about Jesus to take a public stand for Him by meeting Him in broad daylight. He wasn’t willing to compromise his position with the other Jews (most of whom had rejected Jesus.) He may have also wanted uninterrupted time with Jesus.

Dark and light, day and night are used often in the Bible. Sin and worldly are dark. Jesus is the light of the world. Light equaled good. Dark equaled evil. Light is love. Dark is hate.

In Philippians we are told to be lights of the world. In Colossians we are told God delivered us out of darkness. Darkness is a life separated from God.

John 3:21 says, “Those who do what is true come to the light.” And Nicodemus was a man who came to Jesus. He came out of the darkness to the light.

Nicodemus makes what sounds like a statement, but it’s really a question. "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." (John 3:2)

He can see that Jesus is a teacher from God. Mostly because Jesus had been doing miracles all over the place. But, Nicodemus wants to know more. Could Jesus be the prophet? The Messiah?

Jesus doesn’t answer his statement, but He answers his thoughts.

Nicodemus may have been hoping that Jesus would just answer his question and encourage him on the good way he was going, but Jesus’ reply showed Nicodemus that he wasn’t even on the path!

Basically Jesus told him that all his knowledge and social position were inadequate. If he kept on like he was he wouldn’t even see the kingdom of God much less understand it or enter it!

John 3:3-8 says, “In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "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. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 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."

When Jesus says, “I tell you the truth” or in some translations, “Truly, truly” it always indicates some misunderstanding on the part of the hearer that He’s about to correct. So pay attention!

Born again. Jesus was talking about a new beginning that finds its origin in God.
Nicodemus probably wasn’t really asking if he could go back and physically be born again. He was smarter then that. More likely what he was saying was what we might ask, “How can a person like me start life over again? I can’t go back and undo my mistakes. I can’t relive my life, make better choices. When I was young I had dreams – now I’m older and that’s all they were! Tell me, Jesus – how can someone like me experience a new life?”

We can relate to him can’t we?

Many of us would like to change our past. We may keep trying to start fresh. Every New Year’s Eve we make those resolutions. Some of us try hard every morning to start fresh!

What Jesus is talking about is new life. In His water and spirit reference water shows purity and forgiveness. The spirit means power and new life. So it’s kind of two part.

We believe (accept) Christ and are forgiven and given His righteousness and then we are filled with the Spirit, the new life that gives us the power to live that new life. Some people claim to be Christians only because they had a “born again” experience in their past. But, if they don’t have the marks of the Spirit present in their daily walk with Christ, it was a still birth! It takes earnest spiritual discernment to hear God’s voice over the noise of our secular, materialistic world.

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