Text:John 3:1-16 — Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Opening: The story is told of a man who was sitting in his living room one day when his cat dragged in a little “gift” in its mouth—a dead bunny that he immediately recognized as having belonged to the little girl who lived next door. The man felt terrible, believing his cat had killed the little girl’s bunny. Quickly, he came up with a plan. Removing the dead bunny from the cat’s mouth, which by now was a dirty mess, he put it in the kitchen sink. With a little warm water and some shampoo, he tried to clean up the dead bunny as best he could. Then he took a hairdryer(pun intended) and blow-dried it until it looked pretty good. Finally, he took the dead bunny out to the neighbor’s rabbit hutch and placed it back in the cage. He kind of fluffed it up so that it looked very natural there in his little box. The next morning, the man looked out the window and noticed a crowd of people gathered around the rabbit hutch. Everyone seemed to be talking and pointing. He decided to go over and act like any normal curious neighbor and find out what was going on. When he got there, the little girl said to the man, “You won’t believe what has happened! It’s a miracle! My bunny passed away a few days ago, and we buried it right over there. But now it’s back in its cage and looking better than ever.”PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO MIRACLES LIKE MOTHS TO LIGHT! Just the mention of one will cause thousands to make a pilgrimage to witness just the aftereffects of it. In the story I read from the Gospel of John moments ago, Nicodemus was no different. He had either heard of or witnessed miraculous signs that Christ had performed and was so intrigued that he felt compelled to visit Him. Now, Jesus didn’t put many stalks in those whose faith was based on miracles. In fact, in John chapter two, the Apostle finishes with the observation that “many people saw the miraculous signs Jesus was doing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.”The Lord, being God, understood what was in the heart of men, but, nevertheless, He refused to pass up an opportunity to share the gospel with someone. And, so He took time to meet with Nicodemus one night after the sun had set.
Background: (1)Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council. In fact, Jesus calls him Israel’s teacher, meaning he was way up there in the pecking order of importance. Nicodemus knew of the miraculous signs that Christ performed and was able to discern that He had come from God (John 3:2 – no one can do the signs you do unless God is with him). Yet in Christ’s opinion, Nicodemus lacked real understanding about both earthly and heavenly things. (2)He was also a person of great influence. Once he was able to use that influence as a defender of Christ (John 7:51 –Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?) and another time to make sure the Lord’s body received a proper burial(See John 19:39).
Nicodemus, we’re told, came to Jesus privately at night. I doubt this was because Nicodemus was afraid of what others would think so he came under the cloak of darkness. We don’t know why he came at night, but John mentioned it because “night” is often used to refer to the realm of darkness (John 11:10 – It is when one walks by night that he stumbles). It was Jesus’ way of saying that, despite the fact that Nicodemus was Israel’s teacher, he really didn’t understand the things of God. Christ did not to beat around the bush, so He plainly stated the truth that Nicodemus needed to hear. “I tell you the truth(lit. Amen, Amen), no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” And there it is! That important phrase that conjures up all kinds of reactions. In our time remaining, allow me to share four observations to provide clarity about what it means to be born again.
What Jesus says about being born again. In verse two Nicodemus had just said to Jesus,“Rabbi, weknow thatt you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him .That’s when Jesus responds with some talk of being born again. At first glanc,e it seems that the Lord didn’t even respond to Nic’s comment, but just started talking about this new spiritual reality. However, Jesus never wasted words. When He introduced the concept of new birth, He was telling Nicodemus that even though heand the others in the ruling counselthought they knew something about the kingdom of God, they didn’t and couldn’t know until they were born again. Only then would they be able to see the kingdom of Godand understand it. Now, the way Nicodemus responds (How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?) would make us think that he was taking Jesus literally, but he was smarter than that. He knew Jesus was giving an illustration of a spiritual principle, but that’s where his understanding ended. Jesus then provided two clues to understanding what it means to be born again.
· “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Remember that Nicodemus was Israel’s teacher and a member of the Jewish Counsel. It is almost for certain that he had memorized the entire Old Testament. But when Jesus stated talking about new birth, his mind didn’t immediately go back to the Jewish Scriptures, but it should have. In Ezekiel 36:24-26, God said through His prophet, “’For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” This is why the Lord rebukes the man for a lack of understanding. He knew what the Scriptures said, but not what they meant. To experience new birth (born of water and the Spirit) is to have a new beginning where God cleans you up and empowers you to live a new life by His Holy Spirit.
· “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”This sounds confusing, but it’s not! Just as pigs give birth to pigs and elephants give birth to elephants, so humans give birth to their own kind. But if someone wants to be in the Kingdom of God, this requires being born again. Otherwise, we can only reproduce what we ourselves are … sinners separated from God and destined to suffer His holy wrath. Illustration: Jesus drew an analogy between the wind and the Spirit to help Nicodemus understand. Just as we cannot see wind, only measure its effects, so we cannot see the Spirit, but we can measure His effect. He brings real and lasting change when we’re born again by the Spirit. This is exactly what happened to Zacchaeus, a tax collector who met Christ and fully repented – Luke 19:8-9 — “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house). His life completely changed when he was born of the Spirit of God.
Why Jesus can speak so authoritatively about being born again(John 3:11-13 — Truly, truly, I say to you, wespeak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man). When He uses the word “we,” the Lord is not talking about Himself and the disciples. They didn’t really figure things out until after the resurrection. He’s talking about the Father, Son and Spirit. His point is that even though Nicodemus said, “Weknow that you have come from God,” they really didn’t know anything, but God did. In fact, He bore witness of His Son at His baptism – This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Then Jesus talks about “earthly things.” The word “earthly” refers to the idea of being born again that Jesus mentioned in verse three, something that must take place during our time on the earth. “Heavenly” refers to what all that it means to live in the very presence of the glory of God. No earthbound person could visit heaven and come back to tell everyone else what it was like. But Jesus, as the Son of God, knew what heaven was like and only He was qualified to talk about it. Illustration: I never made it to Disney World until I was well into my twenties. Up to that point, I could only imagine what it was like by seeing glimpses of it on television or in a magazine. That all changed when my family met in Florida and we went there for a day. I discovered that it was a kid’s paradise that their parents a lot of money. It was worth it, however, to see the youngest members of our family having the time of their lives. How could any person dare to talk about heaven, unless they had been there to experience it for themselves? That’s why Jesus had the authority to speak of these matters. He knew what it took to be a part of the kingdom of God.
What Jesus does to make it possible for us to be born again(John 3:14-15 — And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life .Certainly, Nicodemus must have recognized that Jesus was referring to a passage from the Old Testament fromNumbers 21:4-9 .The people of Israel had wandered in the desert and were beginning to grow impatient with Moses and the Lord who was directing him. They complained about the food and not having enough water to drink and judged God for His apparent failures. God then judged them by sending poisonous serpents. When Moses prayed to the Lord a prayer of confession and repentance, God told him to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. He then instructed Moses to tell the people that if they were bitten by a serpent, all they had to do was look at the bronze serpent on the pole and they would be healed. SO, WHY DOES JESUS RELATE THIS STORY TO NICODEMUS ?He and his friends were guilty of the same thing! They were judging Jesus and whether or not what He said was really from God. Our Lord pointed out that they were no different than the ancient people of Israel who sinned, were judged by God and then offered salvation because God loved them. Jesus wanted Nicodemus to know that He would offer salvation to His people by being lifted-up as well. We know this took place when He died on the cross.
Why God sent Jesus to die so that we could be born again(John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. The entire reason why God sent our Lord to die for us was because He loved the world. Here are some quick thoughts about God’s love for the world:
· The fact that God loves us is absolutely astonishing! Usually, when we love someone, we’re declaring the reasons why that person is so lovely to begin with. But that is not true when God looks at us. Sure, He made us (and His works are wonderful), but we have thumbed our collective noses at God and told Him that we want to live by our own rules. And still, He loves us.
· The measure of God’s love for us is Jesus. That’s the price that God paid to redeem us from our sins. He offered His Son as a sacrifice. Could God have done anything else that would better demonstrate the depth of His love for mankind? I can’t think of it.
· The purpose of God’s love for us is that we might have life. God sent Jesus because we were facing eternal death. And because Jesus hung on the cross, we can now have eternal life.
· The means by which we come to enjoy this love is faith. It is not by human effort, but by putting our faith and trust in Christ’s atoning sacrifice that we have life. We cannot earn our way to heaven, the only thing we can do is receive the free gift of life by trusting in Jesus Christ, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Christ did not come to change God’s mind, but to express it. “For God so loved the world…” We really don’t know if Nicodemus ever was born again. There seems to be some evidence to support that he was, but the Bible doesn’t say definitively. The good news today is that you can know that you are born again. PRESENT THE GOSPEL. In July of 1976, Israeli commandos made a daring raid at an airport in Entebbe, Uganda in which 103 Jewish hostages were freed. In less than 15 minutes the soldiers killed all seven of the kidnappers and set the captives free. Unfortunately, 3 of the hostages were killed during the raid. When the Israeli commandos entered the terminal they shouted in Hebrew, “Get down! Get down!” The hostages understood and immediately laid