Summary: When Jesus talked about the new birth Nicodemus asked "How can this be?" Jesus’ answer is full of spiritual instruction.

How Can This Be?

Fortifying the Foundations # 7

John 2:23-3:21



This morning we are introduced to a man named Nicodemus and his struggle to understand the kingdom of God. We will hear Jesus’ explanation to him concerning new birth and from that become better equipped to share our faith with others. If you’re active as a witness for Jesus Christ you will probably encounter someone like Nicodemus, a sincere seeker looking for some answers.

Follow with me as we read John 2:23-25

23Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. 25He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. NIV

Here is Jesus in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. A few days earlier[1] he created quite a commotion at the Temple when he cleaned house and drove out the moneychangers. I’m sure the news of all that spread like wild fire through Jerusalem. Who is this guy who upsets the religious status quo and claims authority over the temple?

The crowds came out to see him and when they came he healed their sick and delivered the oppressed.

There is an interesting contrast in the last couple of verses in Chapter 2 that is more obvious in the Greek than in the English. Verse 23 says that many people saw the miraculous signs and believed (pisteuo) in Jesus. The same Greek word is used in verse 24 to say, however, that Jesus did not believe (pisteuo) in them. He knew how fickle public opinion could be.[2] He knew how shallow these people’s commitment was. He thoroughly understood human nature.

One key to navigating life successfully is to love people, serve people, give your life for their best interest, but understand where to put your trust. Rely upon God as your source. That doesn’t mean you don’t trust people at all, but you do understand the limitations involved. Jesus did not trust in these people and he was wise not to—later we will see the same crowd that hailed him as King shouting “Hosanna in the Highest”, turn against him screaming “Crucify him, crucify him!” Jesus thoroughly understood the make up of human nature and the need for regeneration.

One person in Jerusalem impacted by the miracles was this man, Nicodemus. As a member of the Sanhedrin he was no doubt aware of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple.[3]

Then he saw the power of God operating in Jesus’ ministry, miraculous signs,[4] a certain level of faith was stirred. He says to Jesus in John 3:2 “…For no one could perform the miraculous signs your are doing if God were not with him.”

Who is this man, Nicodemus? As I have mentioned he was a member of the prestigious Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin consisted of the High Priest and seventy top Jewish leaders.[5]

Nicodemus was wealthy, cultured, and educated—a Hebrew scholar, a Pharisee of Pharisees, a man of high moral and ethical standards, highly respected in the community, very knowledgeable of scripture and orthodox in his belief.[6] This is the kind of man Jesus tells in John 3:3 “…no one (not even you Nick) can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

This man is very different from many of the people who came to Jesus. On the surface he appears to be anything but needy. He’s not a leper. He is not blind or crippled. He is not a social outcast, in fact, society has given him considerable recognition. He stands in an altogether different social status from the woman at the well whom we will meet in the next chapter. He is unlike the woman caught in adultery or Zaccahaeus, the swindler.

Jesus ministered to anyone who would receive his message. He ministered to the down and outers and he ministered to the up and outers, like Nicodemus. God is not looking at social status either way. He does not reject the poor because he is poor. He does not reject the rich because he is rich. He knows what is in each and everyone of us—a deep need for God and the transformation He alone can give.

I’m glad it is Nicodemus Jesus confronts so forcefully about the need to be born again. If this man needed it, everybody does. Nobody is good enough, moral enough, religious enough to get to heaven on his own. You must be born again. I must be born again. A miracle from God has to take place far beyond anything found in our own goodness. It is an essential preparation for an eternity with a holy God.

Read John 3:1-21

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