An Honest Seeker Comes To Jesus
There was this man who was a Pharisee named Nicodemus. He was a teacher of the Jewish scriptures, and also a member of the Sanhedrin, one of the 71 Jewish men who ruled over Israel. I’ve heard the Sanhedrin described as a combination of our Supreme Court and our Senate, so the guy was a big deal in the Israeli community.
He shows up to talk with Jesus at night and there’s been a lot of speculation as to why he chose the evening time to connect with Jesus, but one reason could be because he wanted time with Jesus alone, one on one. Trying to approach Jesus during the day, while the crowds pressed forward just to touch his garment, while he spoke publicly in front of thousands, well that’s obviously not a good time for a meaningful dialogue about deep and profound truth.
Anyway, Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night and he starts with a compliment. Nicodemus says: We know you’re a teacher from God because no one could do these miracles unless God is with him.
And Jesus ignores the compliment and very abruptly says: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he can’t see the kingdom of God.
Then Nicodemus says: How? How can a man be born again?
It’s interesting to me that Nicodemus never asked, Why? He never said, Now just hang on a second here, I’m a Pharisee. I fast twice a week, I tithe grains of salt, I never tie knots on the Sabbath. I follow the Mishnah and the Talmud to the letter. I mean, come on, I really have it together so why do I need to be born again?
He never says that. He’s at the pinnacle of society in Israel but he knows what he is. People see who he is in public, people see what’s on the outside. But inside, Nicodemus knows what’s on the inside. He’s like you and he’s like me. He wishes he lived with more humility. He wishes he treated the people he loves more gently. He wishes he hadn’t withdrawn from certain relationships to pursue the demanding position he now holds. He doesn’t understand how to be born again but he knows he needs to be born again.
Until I was in my late thirties or so I always thought I would feel better about who I was as a Christian man, as I grew older. But the older I get the more I realize how important it is to study Jesus and the scriptures. And the more I study Jesus and the scriptures the more I realize how far apart we are. I am the chiefest of sinners. Jesus is amazing, and beautiful, and fascinating, and filled with God’s love. Truly, truly, I say to you: I am a wretch. My only hope is Jesus Christ.
The Difference In Nicodemus
Nicodemus was different from the other Pharisees in that he knew his own sin, and that’s why he’s seeking Jesus in this intimate way. The other Pharisees saw themselves as righteous in their own energy. They recognized no need for a savior and their approach to Jesus reflected that. Nicodemus knew he needed Jesus. So he came to seek him alone. Nicodemus was intentional about seeking after Jesus because he knew what he was.
The group that makes up the human race is a lot like that group of Pharisees. There are those who feel like they’re doing okay and don’t really need a Savior. And their notion that there’s enough good in them that God should accept them is what keeps them from coming to Jesus. That’s why they don’t come to Jesus the way Nicodemus did. And then there are those who are different. We’re those who recognize our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. And we know our only hope is to give ourselves to Christ.
The Way To God’s Kingdom
Jesus tells Nicodemus: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Spirit with a capital “S.” That’s God’s divine Spirit. Being born of God’s Spirit is what gives you a new life in Christ. That’s the picture: born of God’s Spirit. When a man and woman procreate, and give birth to a child, they give life to that child. God’s procreation occurs when you recognize your need, like Nicodemus did, and you seek after him, at night if you have to. Or early morning if you have to. Doing whatever it takes to humbly confess your sinful nature and your need for a Savior and then invite Him to take care of the “how.”
What happens when you approach God that way? What happens when you approach him the way Nicodemus did?
Nicodemus’s honest, genuine, heartfelt inquiry results in, sets the stage for, the greatest and best known scripture in the entire Bible. It’s after Nicodemus approached Jesus in this humble genuine way that we read,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus said, Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5) To reside in God’s kingdom means you belong to Him. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13) But for that transfer to happen we have to be born again. That’s how we’re saved from perishing. That’s how we’re given eternal life.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’ve never been born of water and the Spirit as Jesus described. Maybe you’ve never come to Jesus in the way Nicodemus did. After Nicodemus’s honest inquiry we see him defend Jesus to the rest of the Sanhedrin in John 7:45-52. And later we see Nicodemus help to bury Jesus after Jesus died on the cross. (John 19:39) Nicodemus became a believer. If you seek Jesus in the same way, the same will happen to you.
Go to him the way Nicodemus did.
Confess your need for Him and ask to be born of water and of God’s Spirit.
And enter into God’s kingdom.
(If you want prayer, or have questions or comments, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
[Image via Grant MacDonald – Creative Commons]