Summary: Jesus will meet your greatest spiritual need.
Encountering Christ in the Book of John #3
Woodlawn Baptist Church
"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night…"
The passage we’re going to consider this morning is perhaps one of the best known encounters with Jesus in all the world - this night time encounter with Nicodemus that led up to the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Before we consider the actual encounter, I want to take you back several days and try to help you get into the head of this man Nicodemus.
Remember that John the Baptist had been preaching at the Jordan River a message of repentance; a message that told the people they needed to turn from dead religion to living faith in the coming Messiah. John’s baptism was to be evidence of the change that had taken place in their lives. He was hammering at the conscience of Israel, seeking to prepare the people for the coming of king and kingdom, but his message of repentance and baptism was an affront to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day. They rejected the ministry and the baptism of John. They saw no need for repentance - and how dare this man suggest that they submit to an ordinance that was reserved for filthy Gentile proselytes.
Besides all of that, who was this Jesus anyway? They were looking for a Messiah, but Jesus didn’t fit the description of their Messiah. This was a common carpenter from the small village of Nazareth. He was a nobody, yet His very presence was arresting. He may have looked just like every other Jew, but there was something about Him, something in His eyes that pierced the soul and in His speech that stirred the heart.
For a few days all was quiet. After the Pharisees went home Jesus spent a few days with His new disciples: men like Andrew and Peter, John and Nathaniel and Phillip. There may have been others, and it seems that Jesus’ mom was with them too. They attended a wedding in Cana, a city not too far from Jesus’ home town, where He turned the water into wine, then left there to attend the Passover in Jerusalem.
When Jesus got to Jerusalem, He went to the temple. You’ll see in John 2:14 that Jesus went in and "found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting." Jesus was outraged by the injustices of their actions - and He acted out against it. I think of so many of the movies that have been made about Jesus. We find Him so serene and calm. While the world around Him was going crazy, the movies have Jesus acting as though He’s on Prozac. That’s not the image I get at all from John 2. The passage says that he made a scourge of small cords and drove them all out of the temple: the people and the animals, then He overthrew the tables, then He shouted after the people He had run out something about making His Father’s house a house of merchandise.
Let me tell you something - that was no small thing that He did, and it caught the attention of everyone in the city. The religious leaders wanted to know why He did it, what proof He had of His authority for behaving like that - to which He replied that they would destroy His temple and He would raise it up in three days.
Jesus left there that day and the Bible says that He stayed in the city performing miracles and building up a greater following than He had come with, so that now there is no telling what kind of a mob scene is moving around Jerusalem to see and hear this man who has come into town challenging the establishment. It must have been quite a scene.
Now, none of this has gone unnoticed by our man Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. In other words, this man was on the Jewish Sanhedrin, or the Jewish high court. Rabbinical tradition makes Nicodemus one of the three richest men in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day.(1) Imagine him with me walking through the streets of Jerusalem at dusk, hoping for an appointment with this man Jesus. As he walks along he is thinking to himself:
"We sent people to talk to that man John the Baptist. I don’t understand why he is baptizing people. It’s not legal! The only person that can be baptized is a heathen that converts to Judaism. Are they trying to say that this is a new religion? Impossible! The law is all that anyone needs to live a life dedicated to God. These great principles given to us by God have been defined down to strict laws that anybody can understand and must obey.