Summary: Sermon on the difference between a do and a done salvation experience.
“Nic at Nite”
John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
I. His Identity
Someone once asked a young woman, “What is the difference between my religion and yours?”
She responded, “They are actually quite close. In fact, only two letters separate our beliefs. Your religion is spelled, ‘D-O; DO.’ Mine is spelled: ‘D-O-N-E; DONE.” Our lesson this morning is about a man who had a “do” religion instead of a “done” relationship! His name is Nicodemus which means interestingly enough, “innocent blood.” We shall learn that eventually he came to realize that his salvation was dependent on the shedding of innocent blood. What do we know about this man?
a. His character
Nicodemus was a Pharisee; but he was not only a Pharisee; he was also (verse 1): “a ruler of the Jews.” That refers to the Sanhedrin, the 70 men who governed the Jews under the ultimate authority of the Roman Empire. They had “wide-ranging powers in civil, criminal, and religious matters.” They could both arrest and conduct trials.
Also, they had, for example, many rules dictating acceptable behavior, especially on the Sabbath. Because God prohibited work, they carefully measured their food so as to only carry what weighed less than a dried fig. They prohibited a woman from picking grains of wheat and eating them, for that required the “work” of harvesting and “threshing.” Their acts of devotion seem ridiculous to us, but we surely must be impressed by the seriousness with which they practiced their faith. Theirs was a “do” experience in every way. It was performance oriented religious experience. Their sense of acceptance and wellbeing was directly related to what they did.
b. His caution
The 2nd verse tells us that Nicodemus “…came to Jesus by night…” This has several implications. First, it’s apparent that Nicodemus was somewhat reluctant to be seen with this young Rabbi. In many ways we would consider him to be a “closet disciple.” In some ways he is very much like us. It is difficult for us to identify with Jesus because in doing so we may be subjected to ridicule or mockery. Have you ever been called a “Bible thumper” or a “Holy roller?” The Apostle Peter became very agitated when he was confronted by someone who had seen him with Jesus and even had a “cuss fit, “denying the One that just a few hours earlier he had pledged to die for! Second and we need to see this; this man wasn’t far from the kingdom. Make no mistake, he was not a Christian but he wasn’t far from it! Granted he was mistaken about some very important truths but at least he had come to the right place and the right person!
ILL - J. C. Ryle, “We must not set down a man as having no grace, because his first steps towards God are timid and wavering, and the first movements of his soul are uncertain, hesitating, and stamped with much imperfection…. Like our Lord, let us take inquirers by the hand, and deal with them gently and lovingly. In everything there must be a beginning. It is not those who make the most flaming profession of religion at first who endure the longest and prove the most steadfast.” Third, this man wasn’t far from the kingdom; I know that I just said that but the truth is you can be close and not get in. We are told about the case of a young man who “lacked” only one thing to enter the kingdom in Luke 18:23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. He was close to the entrance to the kingdom but he would not enter. As far as we know he never did!
c. His conclusion
There had been no direct word to Israel from God in
400 years, and here was One whose message carried the stamp of divine authority. So Nicodemus the cautious enquirer, but a man of spiritual perception, sought out Jesus, and listened to one of His remarkable conversational sermons. He is not sure what to think about Jesus, but he has seen “these signs” (verse 2) and he is clearly impressed. We do not know if he was personally at the wedding in Cana (recorded in chapter two), where Jesus changed the water into wine, but he has surely heard of that miracle. And this verse makes it clear that Nicodemus has seen other miracles himself. So he concludes that Jesus must be from God. Additionally, Nicodemus admits that Jesus is a teacher and he calls him Rabbi. This is a complement; Nicodemus, the older and wiser Rabbi is “graciously” treating Jesus as a peer, as a man to be honored. He is certainly speaking of him and to him with some respect. There are many today who speak of Jesus with respect, they think him a great teacher , a great moral example, a great leader but not the Son of God and certainly not the Savior of the world.