Summary: Jesus gives Nicodemus a theological conundrum "You must be born again." and lets him to go away and think about it.
Gunthorpe/ Field Dalling 15-06-03
My text this morning is taken from our Gospel reading John 3:1-17 and I want to focus on Jesus’ words to Nicodemus:
I tell you in truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God, unless he is born again.”
Nicodemus came to Jesus by night secretly.
Have you ever wondered why he came to Jesus at night?
i) Was it because he wanted to speak to Jesus in quiet and not be disturbed?
ii) Or was it because he did not want it known - that he was speaking with a Galilean carpenter?
Nicodemus is a perfect gentleman. He is very polite when he says to Jesus: "Rabbi, 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).
Jesus’ reply is to toss him what I can only call an intellectual hand grenade. "You must be born again".
Not: " Well thank you very much, Nicodemus for your kind words. So what can I do for you?
A bombshell. " You must be born again"
The story is well known. But have you ever stopped to wonder why Jesus spoke so abruptly to Nicodemus?
I think it is because Jesus knew his man.
He saw behind Nicodemus’ question.
Nicodemus - like many earnest Pharisees in his day - was looking for the day when the Kingdom of God would come.
So Jesus got to the heart of the matter:
If you want to see the kingdom of God - You must be born again.
II. What was Jesus trying to do?
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a theologian.
We read in verse 10 that he was Israel’s teacher. He was a member of the ruling Jewish council.
In other words, he was no intellectual slouch!!
He obviously recognised the authority Jesus had - by the signs and miracles Jesus performed.
So Jesus gave him something to go away and think about.
Nicodemus’ whole mind-set was being challenged.
Jesus was challenging the whole way of thinking that the Pharisees had.
They thought that they made themselves fit for the Kingdom of God - by keeping the Law of Moses. No, Jesus said: You must be born again.
In other words, Nicodemus, you can’t earn salvation, it is a free gift of God. And that is as true today as it was for Nicodemus.
Just like Nicodemus and the other Pharisees, there is a danger today that people think that they can earn a place in heaven - simply by going to Church and being nice people?
III. So what does being born again mean?
From what Jesus said to Nicodemus, it is clear that being born again was a direct result of faith in Jesus’ death and Resurrection. This is something that we experience – just like physical birth is.
But unlike a natural birth, it is something we receive when we ask Christ to come into our lives.
Many of us have our own personal story of how we experience this birth.
Story: John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church was 35 years old when he came into contact with the Moravian missionaries in London, who showed him the way to Christ.
He had even been ordained a priest in the Church of England year before he was born again. His conversion experience was in a meeting hall where he discovered his spirit being "strangely warmed." as he recorded in his journal.
Story: I too had an experience of being born again when I was 16.
In Dec 1971, I went to a Christian camp called the Oxford Conference, which was held in Wycliffe Hall Oxford. I had been thinking about the Christian faith and one evening I went into my room and said to God: “If you exist like my friends Gerald and Mike say, I want to know you.”
And as I said that, I felt the presence of God in that room there and then.
We all have a different story to tell. Maddy was brought up a Christian and doesn’t have a “Damascus road” experience like I do.
It doesn’t matter how you became a Christian – it only matters if you a Christian now?”
Jesus’ challenge to Nicodemus was that he needed to be born again.
Despite being a great theologian – he is described in this passage by Jesus as “Israel’s teacher” (v.10), Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus meant. I do however believe that Nicodemus went away thought about it - and in time he became a believer.
My reasons for thinking this are circumstantial – but I think not unreasonable.
i) Firstly, the next time that Nicodemus appears in the Bible (Jn 19:39) we read of him asking - together with Joseph of Arimathea- if he may bury Jesus’ body. I don’t think he wouldn’t have taken the political risk – unless Jesus was somebody special to him.