Summary: Being born again was a mystery to Nicodemus and is to us also.
“Come on in boys. The water is fine.” That was a film clip from “Oh, Brother. Where art thou?” The scene was Delmar’s baptism. He went into the water a sinner and came out a saint. He went into the water with guilt and came out forgiven.
The forgiveness of sin through water baptism is nothing new. It was practiced by some Jews on a regular bases. In fact, one Jew built a ministry based on baptism. Perhaps you have heard of him; John the Baptist. He built his ministry on the laws found in Leviticus that spoke of a cleansing or washing process. When a Jew became defiled for one of numerous reasons it was a requirement that he immerse himself in water for cleansing. John taught an immersion of the body for spiritual cleansing.
John had a huge following. He taught that you should give to the poor, that you should feed those who are hungry. He taught that tax collectors should be honest and not extort money or lie. He taught that the ritual cleansing of immersion would lead to repentance. However John knew a better way of forgiveness was coming. Let’s read his announcement. Mark 1:7 “John announced: ‘Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals.’”
So who is this one who is greater? Matthew 3:13-17 holds the answer. “Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,’ he said, ‘so why are you coming to me?’
But Jesus said, ‘It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John agreed to baptize him.
After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.’”
Jesus went immediately from there to forty days of temptation in the desert.
After the forty days Jesus came to Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, “A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.” I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.’”
Then John testified, ‘I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, “The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.’”(John 1:29-34)
Jesus began to assemble his apostles. They went with him to a wedding ceremony at Cana where they would witness water being turned into wine. Next they went to Jerusalem where Jesus, in a controlled rage, would chase the merchants and the money changers out of the temple. It was here that He had his first dispute with the Jewish leaders. It was here that He spoke of his death and resurrection for the first time. It was here that He began to perform miracles. And it was here that we meet our next character in the line of the dirty dozen.
John 3:1-2 “There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’”
Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was a member of
a Jewish sect that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, adherence to oral laws and traditions, and belief in an afterlife and the coming of a Messiah. He was also a Jewish religious leader which meant people would have had high regards for him.
The Bible tells us he came at night. Most would teach that he came at night because he was afraid of what others would think. I believe he came at night so that he could have a more private time with Jesus. During the day there were crowds constantly around making it impossible for him to have the conversation with Jesus he desired.