Summary: This message deals with Jesus meeting with Nicodemus in John chapter 3:1-21
The Person of Jesus series
Jesus – the way of salvation
CHCC: March 14, 2010
Today we’re going to be talking about a very religious man. So I though we’d start by examining how very religious people tend to get things done. We’ll look at a study that was done on how many (of various religious brands) it takes to change a light bulb.
* First, how many Charismatics does it take to change a light bulb? Only one. And his hands already in the air.
* Pentecostals: Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.
* Presbyterians: None. Lights will go off and on at predestined times.
* Roman Catholic: None. Candles only.
* Baptists: At least 15. One to change the light bulb and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.
* Episcopalians: Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old bulb was.
* Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, you are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.
* Lutherans: None. Lutherans don’t believe in change.
* And for the Amish: ---What’s a light bulb?
The highly religious man we meet in chapter 3 of John is a Pharisee named Nicodemus. He’s not just your “garden-variety” Pharisee --- he’s a member of the elite Jewish ruling council.
I’m sure it made a big impression on Jesus’ disciples when Nicodemus showed up one night and asked to speak with Jesus. It would be like Billy Graham, or maybe Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, coming to see a "rooky" youth minister.
We have to stop and ask ourselves why Nicodemus came to see Jesus under cover of darkness. It would have been easy to make a day-time appointment with him. Nicodemus may have come secretly at night to avoid being seen by the other Pharisees. It’s also possible that he came at night because that’s when he could have a long, private conversation with Jesus.
I get the impression that Nicodemus had a genuine interest in this new young teacher. He addressed Jesus as “Rabbi,” and he told Jesus, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." John 3:2
I’m sure Nicodemus felt like he was being extremely gracious to show Jesus such respect. But if he had known who he was really talking to, he could have come up with better titles than merely, “Rabbi.” Think about the other titles Jesus has already been given in the gospel of John. John first presented Jesus as the incarnate Word of God. John the .Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God spoke at Jesus’ baptism and said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” Calling Jesus “rabbi” seems kind of lame in comparison!
There are plenty of people today who make the same mistake. Most people hold Jesus in a certain degree of respect. They picture him as a “great teacher,” or a “really, really, really nice guy.” But Jesus made it clear that He is so much more than that. Jesus didn’t waste time making small talk with Nicodemus. Verse 3 says, In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
Jesus bypassed the cordial niceties, and got to the heart of the matter. Jesus knew so much about Nicodemus that he addressed something boiling around in the learned Pharisee’s heart. He let him know in no uncertain terms, that his religious credentials amounted to nothing in the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus responded, "How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!" John 3:4
Now, being “born again” wasn’t as foreign a concept as you might think. Jews of that day were in the habit of proselytizing gentiles into the faith with a form of baptism used as a ceremonial cleansing. The baptized convert was regarded by the Jews as being “reborn” as a child of Israel. In fact, the rabbis would say, “A proselyte who embraces Judaism is like a new-born child.” (Barclay, DSB series, John, Vol. 1, p. 126).
The problem for Nicodemus was that he could not imagine how he --- a true-born descendant of Abraham, and a premier leader among the Pharisees --- how could he possibly go through a proselytizing type of ceremony? Nic was way too far along in Judaism to go back to square one. He told Jesus, I might just as well try to crawl back into his mother’s womb as to start over and become new-be in the faith.