Summary: Nicodemus met Jesus at night and his life was changed forever. Our life will be changed too when we come face to face with Jesus.
Nic at Night
Intro: Jesus had performed the miracle at Cana and his disciples believed in him. He followed this sign with others as he goes to Jerusalem for the passover. Many believed including many of the Pharisees. Nicodemus seems to have been one of them. Nicodemus was a Pharisee an a member of the ruling Sanhedrin. While Nicodemus has an elementary faith in Jesus, he, like many of the other believing Pharisees, was not ready to give up his place in the Sanhedrin. He knew that if he openly supported Jesus, he would more than likely be expelled from the Sanhedrin in disgrace. Still, Nicodemus wanted to know more about this man Jesus that he had heard so much about. He solves his dilemma of satisfying his curiosity and maintaining secrecy by coming to Jesus at night.
Nicodemus makes three appearances in the Bible, each in the Gospel of John. First, he comes to Jesus by night here in chapter 3. Nicodemus surfaces again in John 7:50-52, when, during a meeting with fellow Sanhedrin council members, he raises a procedural point in Jesus’ favor. Nevertheless, he was still a Pharisee and likely yet unconverted. Nicodemus’ final appearance (John 19:39-42) reveals that the seed Jesus planted by night blossoms in the light of a gloomy day: Nicodemus forsakes his religion by wrapping and burying the crucified body of his Lord. What brought about this transformation from a curious Pharisee to a believer willing to sacrifice everything for Jesus? I believe it began with this visit when Nicodemus comes face to face with Jesus.
Vs. 2 “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
Nicodemus is a diplomat. He begins his conversation with a compliment. He calls Jesus a “Rabbi”which, if he were talking today would say something like “great one” or “master.” He then acknowledges that he, along with other secret disciples (“we”) believed that Jesus has come from God as a teacher. He believes this because of the signs which Jesus has performed. At this point in the Gospel of John, Jesus had performed only one miracle and it was known only to a few. However, Jesus had no doubt performed many other miracles which John did not record. Nicodemus is trying to start the conversation out on a high note. Now, whether Nicodemus really meant what he said or was just making a diplomatic opening, we will never know.
Jesus did not even acknowledge Nicodemus’ statement but went to the main issue that was do doubt on Nidodemus’ mind, how can I be a part of the Messiah’s kingdom. Nicodemus like so many others had a physical idea of the Messiah’s kingdom. That of overthrowing the oppression of Rome and restoring Israel to greatness. Nicodemus wanted to be a part of that kingdom. He wanted Jesus to tell him how. Jesus’ answer however, caught Nicodemus completely off guard. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”
Born again? Born Again? Nicodemus is dumbfounded. He had expected perhaps some kind of loyalty oath, or some deed of bravery or perhaps the payment of money. Anything but this!! Nicodemus surprise and astonishment is evident in his response in verse 4, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Nicodemus was thinking physically and literally and the suggestion of a rebirth was ridiculous in his mind.
While Nicodemus is reeling from his opening salvo, Jesus continues in verses 5 and 6, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” There is some disagreement concerning the meaning of Jesus’ statement here. Some see the demand of being born both of water and the Spirit is a reference to physical birth (water) and spiritual rebirth (Spirit). However, the more logical view is that Jesus is talking about baptism in which we are immersed in water and receive the renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus continues in verses 7 and 8, “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Jesus attempts to make the concept clearer by using an illustration. He points out to Nicodemus that he believes in the wind even though he has never seen it. He believes the wind exists because of the effects it has on the environment. Likewise, the Spirit cannot be seen but it’s effects on the spiritually reborn will be obvious.