Summary: This message examines the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus.
What does it mean to be a disciple? Wait a second; let me be a little bolder with my question. Are you a follower of Jesus? I believe that the majority of us would answer that question in a way that affirms that we do indeed follow Jesus. But I still have to ask; are you really a disciple? Is there a difference? Well there shouldn’t be but unfortunately we have the tendency to make a distinction between the two. The majority would define a follower as an admirer of Jesus, someone who likes Him there when they need Him and they do not see the need to truly surrender their entire life to Him. In fact in their mind the term disciple is reserved for those super Christians. Jesus draws no such distinction, a follower and disciple is one in the same. In fact Jesus defines a follower or disciple in this way, a person that is so committed to Him, that when He calls they will change, risk, grow and leave their old lives behind. In our text we meet a man by the name of Nicodemus who thinks he might like to be a follower of Jesus but unfortunately He sees the concept of being a follower quite differently than Jesus. In fact He holds more of a modern view that draws that line of distinction between follower and disciple. This sets the stage for what will prove to be an interesting exchange between a respected teacher of the law and the very Messiah that he has been waiting for. Today through this text we should gain an understanding of what a true follower of Jesus looks like and why it requires us to truly be born again.
I. A close examination of Nicodemus’ resume.
A. The positive attributes that we discover about Nicodemus.
1. Not only is Nicodemus a Pharisee, John describes him as a leader of the people which implies that he was a member of the revered council of seventy known as the Sanhedrin.
2. Being a Pharisee, Nicodemus would have known the Law of Moses inside and out and would have taught and defended it faithfully.
3. Nicodemus’ opinion of Jesus is obviously not a private opinion as he says “we know”. Now he finds himself honestly searching for answers in regard to Jesus’ identity and the Kingdom of God.
4. As we trace Nicodemus throughout the book of John we discover that later He will stand up for Jesus in the presence of his fellow Pharisees and will also assist Joseph of Arimathea during Jesus’ burial.
B. The attributes that are not exactly in Nicodemus’ favor.
1. The fact that Nicodemus chose to come to Jesus at night forces us to question his motives. This forces us to ask the question, “Why did he choose to come at night?”
2. Normally being called a rabbi by such a distinguished teacher as Nicodemus would be a great compliment. However, considering the fact that already in the Gospel of John, Jesus has been identified as the Logos, the Lamb of God, the Son of God and the Messiah, the term rabbi seems to completely miss the mark.
3. Nicodemus is rebuked by Jesus for not understanding concepts that He should have been quite familiar with considering his position.
4. All of the prestige and clout that went along with Nicodemus’ position were worthless in the Kingdom of God. If he truly desired to enter the Kingdom he would have to throw away all his earthly prestige and start anew.
5. Nicodemus’ faith was obviously misplaced since it seems as though he is relying on his position and knowledge to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God.
II. Should Nicodemus be viewed as a positive or negative example?
A. Nicodemus’ opinion about Jesus was based upon the signs and miracles that He had performed.
1. To Nicodemus the signs indicated that Jesus had come from God, but when you look closely at the scene one main question surfaces. “If Nicodemus really believed that Jesus was sent from God, why didn’t he accept His teaching as being from God?”
2. Perhaps Nicodemus intended to discuss the signs and miracles with Jesus as well as the coming kingdom, but one thing is for sure, he got more than he bargained for.
3. Nicodemus’ view of the kingdom was obviously off the mark and that would have been directly related to his misunderstanding of the nature and mission of the Messiah.
4. Nicodemus does not come to Jesus truly seeking; he comes to Jesus as an equal, an insider, a person who believes that his position and knowledge assures him of a place in the kingdom.
5. We need to understand that just as earthly citizenship is a right of birth or granted to a person, citizenship in the kingdom of God is granted by Him and is a right of the new birth.