Summary: An exposition of Nicodemus’ enounter with Jesus. I opened with an illustration from the movie: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." It was a good tie in because the movie is about a man who was born old, which is on par with the question that Nicodemus
The Curious Case of Nicodemus
How many of you like movies? I like movies, but don’t go to the movies as often as I use to especially since I received a subscription to Netflix a while back. One of the movies I recently rented was called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is a strange movie that came out in 2008, it is also a long movie.
Anyway, without being a plot spoiler it was about a person who was born old. Unlike a normal person who is born young and grows older the years go by, this person actually grows younger with the passing of time. The movie chronicles the life of this strange person. So it is as a very strange but interesting movie. It is a movie that at the end you can’t help but ask the question: “how can a man be born old?”; which happens to be the same question that Nicodemus asks Jesus when he encounters him one night. If you have your Bibles with you please open them up to John Chapter 3.1
We have been looking at the Gospel of John for the last couple of months which follows the ministry and miracles of Jesus. We recently looked at the wedding feast of Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. Last week we looked at Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. All this began to draw the attention of a lot of people including a group known as the Pharisees. In today’s reading we find that one of those Pharisee’s a man named Nicodemus decided to pay Jesus a visit to inquire more about some of his teachings and this the story in our reading today. [Read John 3.1-21]
There is a lot of scripture here today, too much to be covered in one sermon but we are going to touch on a few of the key points. In this story we have this man named Nicodemus who is a member of the Jewish Ruling Council, which means he has a high rank within the temple system. He was likely a man of power and esteem. But for some reason he chose to visit Jesus at night. We don’t know why he visited Jesus at night some scholars suggest that he was afraid of being seen by his Pharisee friends, some suggest that the night was symbolic of his spiritual condition i.e. that he had been living in the dark and was know progressing towards Jesus who was the light. Or it could be that it was the only time that he could meet with Jesus. So we really don’t know why Nicodemus came visiting Jesus at night but what we do know is that Nicodemus came looking for answers.
But instead of Nicodemus starting out asking questions, he started out with a bit of flattery. He says to Jesus in verse 3.2:
“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)
So Nicodemus is flattering Jesus and we know that Jesus knew what Nicodemus was up to as we read in an earlier passage that Jesus knew what was in a man. In fact He knew a lot about Nicodemus. He knew that he was likely not being sincere. He knew that he was a man of stature, an official in the Jewish system, but he also knew that along with that status comes a lot of baggage.
He also knew that Nicodemus was an educated man, a scholar of the Torah. Nicodemus would know the scripture so well that he had likely memorized large parts of it, so he could quote scripture by heart. He knew that all that knowledge would be accompanied by pride and possibly even fear. Maybe Nicodemus was fearful that he didn’t know that scripture as well as people thought and possibly had a lot of unanswered questions, and even doubts about his faith especially since hearing some of the things that Jesus said. So Jesus knows all these things but Jesus also knows that Nicodemus is a man who seeks truth. That is why when Nicodemus approaches him with a flattering comment Jesus doesn’t say something like: “thanks for the compliment Nicodemus you are a nice guy and a good teacher too.” No Jesus comes at him head on with the truth that Nicodemus is seeking. He says in verse 3.3:
“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
I guarantee when Nicodemus hears this he is feeling a bit uncomfortable, possibly thinking that Jesus does know him and his doubts, especially as they relate to the Kingdom of God and how one enters it. But he is likely taken back by the shear absurdity of Jesus’ statement. So Nicodemus comes back with the Benjamin Button statement: