Have you ever really stopped to consider the entirety of Nicodemus the Pharisee’s nighttime meeting with Jesus as accounted for in John 3:1-21 (ESV)? I hope you’ll follow along …
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 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.”
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and to be seen with Jesus during the daylight hours was extremely risky so he came to him by night. While he indicates a we, he came alone which in my mind, in conjunction with the rest of the New Testament seems to suggest Nicodemus alone was the Pharisee with the questions …
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 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?”
Jesus then reveals to Nicodemus that one must be born again to see the kingdom of God … which totally blows Nicodemus ability to comprehend …
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.”
Then Jesus reveals that when one is born again, he is born of the Holy Spirit … and you do not know where the Spirit will take you. Remember when Jesus was baptized how the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a dove and remained on Jesus? (John 1:29-34).
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 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.
Nicodemus continues to remain confused … and Jesus admonishes him revealing that I am teaching you what I know and bear witness to what I have seen … as God … but you will not receive the testimony of the witnesses (see John 5:30-46)
If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Jesus reveals who He is to Nicodemus and what must happen to make eternal life possible.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes IN him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved THROUGH him.
John 3:16 needs no explanation… unfortunately it is often memorized and taught apart from John 3:17 which puts it in context of what Jesus mission on earth was … and the message we are called to relay as ambassadors of reconciliation.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
It is indeed a message about the choice between salvation and condemnation.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
Some people prefer the darkness over the light … Jesus reveals exactly what that means.
But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out IN God.”
Note the close of this final verse, ‘so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried our IN God’ … later we come to the understand that to be IN Christ Jesus.
This is not your infant formula teaching … this is teaching of the steak and potato variety!
You can’t help but wonder if Nicodemus wasn’t struck by the symbolism and the irony in his personal encounter with Jesus as he wandered home in the midst of the darkness. Not only the darkness of night but also the beginnings of understanding that the teaching of the Pharisees of which he was a proponent was also in the darkness … Did it change him?
Well, we encounter Nicodemus two more times in the gospel of John. First, he comes to the timid defense of Jesus before the chief priests and Pharisees as they sought to arrest Jesus in John 7:40-52.
But more importantly, risking all Nicodemus was there with Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus after the crucifixion. Not only was he there but he came with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes which he and Joseph used to prepare Jesus’ body for burial … see John 19:38-42.
Nicodemus had come to believe IN Jesus … Nicodemus escaped the darkness and came INto the Light!