Summary: The only way to enter the Kingdom of God is by way of a new birth. The religious bubble of Nicodemus must have burst!
Entrance into the Kingdom of God: John 2:24-3:3
Jesus knew the desperate condition of the sinful human heart of mankind. Jesus has the ability to look into the very heart of man, knowing his thoughts and motivations. Jesus knew that people’s enthusiasm for His signs, wonders and miracles did not mean that they had come to saving faith. We ended last week with the thought that not everyone who is impressed by the “spectacular” wholeheartedly commits and trusts in Him as Savior and Lord.
Look at the last two verses from last week in John 2:24: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (There is a strong connection with these verses and Jesus’ familiar encounter with Nicodemus: Jesus himself knew what was in man… AND) John 3:1: “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."
“Nicodemus came to Jesus by Night.”
Nicodemus was a prominent religious scholar (a Pharisee) as well as ruler of the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin, a representative of the people, and he comes to Jesus by night. He may have come at night out of courtesy to Jesus, not wanting to bother the teacher during the busiest time of the day, but most likely this public religious leader came at night so that he would not be seen by other leaders and by the general public.
John makes use of many symbolisms in his Gospel, such as belief/truth/and salvation contrasted with unbelief/falsehood/and doom. John also uses the metaphor of “light” verses “darkness”, and so here it is relevant that Nicodemus comes by the cover of darkness in order to speak to Jesus, who is “the Light of the World” to those searching in the darkness.
Nicodemus’ opening statement might well be considered a compliment, having been impressed by a number of Jesus’ signs, however, he has yet not arrived at “saving” faith; he has only been moved by the spectacular works of Jesus to come and ask more questions in order to test out his initial observations.
As far as Nicodemus’ observations of Jesus, He knew SOME TRUTH about Jesus but he was unable to not know or confess THE TRUTH about Jesus. He recognized Jesus as a “teacher” and to some degree, that Jesus had been sent “from God” and that God was WITH Him, but Nicodemus did not recognize that Jesus WAS God in the Flesh. His heart WAS STILL DEAD AND BLIND TO THE FACT THAT JESUS IS LORD, and that the LORD is Jesus, and that He alone could provide forgiveness, entrance into the Kingdom of God and eternal life. Nicodemus did not recognize that Jesus’ miracles pointed beyond themselves to God Himself. Nicodemus was impressed with the signs but he did not see, know, commit, and follow Jesus as Savior and Lord, because HE COULDN’T. He was still spiritually blind and dead.
Jesus’ response to Nicodemus tells us what He definitively knew about Nicodemus because Jesus knew what was in the heart of THIS MAN; He gets right to the very heart of the matter: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Jesus’ answer gives a response, not to any question, but actually to the thoughts of Nicodemus, revealing his legal status before God. In one short statement Jesus sweeps away all that Nicodemus stood for religiously: Jesus is making a legal judgment of Nicodemus’ heart. As a religious leader, Nicodemus would have endorsed a strict observation of the law and following the traditions of the elders. For the Pharisee, this was the way to salvation. Jesus says: “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is not by human striving that you enter, but by a supreme work of God which HE ALONE CAN EFFECT!
The implication is this: “Nicodemus, you may be a “Victor or Conqueror of the People”, as your name implies, but that is not good enough to enter the Kingdom of God. You may have earned religious status and a high reputation as a religious leader among men, but that means nothing in order to enter the Kingdom of God. The power that you have among men is powerless to give you entrance into God’s Kingdom. You may think you know me, that I have come from God, and that I was WITH God, but you do not see that I AM God in the Flesh. You may know a whole lot in your head and achieved much in life, but you do not know how a person becomes a citizen of God’s Kingdom.”