Summary: Jesus addressed the best of the best of men developed under the old covenant and told him he must be born again. Everyone must be born from above if they are going to enter the Kingdom of God.
JOHN 3: 1-7
THE NEW BIRTH
Not only was Benjamin Franklin a great statesman and inventor, but he was also a great correspondent and received letters from famous people from all over the world. One day he received what could well have been the most important letter ever to come to his desk. It was from the well-known British preacher George Whitefield.
"I find that you grow more and more famous in the learned world," Whitefield wrote. "As you have made such progress in investigating the mysteries of electricity, I now humbly urge you to give diligent heed to the mystery of the new birth. It is a most important and interesting study and, when mastered, will richly repay you for your pains."
The subject before us today is one of absolute and vital importance. It is the hinge of the whole gospel message. It is the point in which all true Christians agree. It is the mandatory occurrence in each man’s salvation. It is the beginning point for our hope for heaven. It is the basic work of faith. Thus we ought to be very diligent to ascertain that we are truly born again. For there are many who imagine themselves saved who are not. Thus we frequently need to examine ourselves and it is the minister’s duty to assist us in our self-examination.
In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus we find the means of attaining eternal life and the importance of personal faith and decision. Nicodemus wanted to learn more about Jesus, but he ended up learning more about himself! Those who come to learn more about Jesus will learn more about themselves also. Let us open our ears and our heart and learn from Jesus as Nicodemus did. For you too must be born again.
I. NICODEMUS’ RESPONSE, 1-2.
II. JESUS’ REPLY, 3.
III. GOD’S RE-BIRTH, 4-7.
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;"
Nicodemus (Greek name meaning victor over the people) is introduced as a prominent man of the upper class, and definitely interested in Jesus’ teachings. As a Pharisee he belonged to the strict religious sect of Judaism in contrast to the Sadducees, who were less rigid in their beliefs and were more politically motivated. He occupied a very prominent position being a ruler of the Jews or a member of the Sanhedrin. We also know he was a rabbi (3:1, 10), a teacher no doubt of some fame. In 3:10 Jesus refers to him as (lit.) "the teacher [not a teacher] of Israel." This at least must refer to his distinguished reputation in Jerusalem. [He was also a scribe (1:10; 7:50) meaning a professional student, interpreter, and teacher of the law.]
His interest in Jesus had been prompted by the person and miracles he had witnessed, many of these occurring during the Passover week. He came to converse with Jesus in order to obtain more information. His approach shows that he was cautious, open minded, and ready to receive a new revelation from God, if he was sure of its genuineness.
Verse 2 reveals Nicodemus’ motive for coming to Jesus."This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "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."
This rabbi comes to Jesus at night, either because of a desire for privacy stemming from fear. He might worry that the temple authorities, whom Jesus has just challenged, might see him as a collaborator.
But the time of meeting could also indicate that Nicodemus came from the darkness of intellectual and ritualistic religion into the light of Jesus’ presence, into the light of truth. [ "Night" is also likely a theological symbol (used frequently by John) that expresses Nicodemus’s spiritual relation to the truth. John often refers to darkness as the realm of evil, untruth, and unbelief (e.g., 9:4; 11:10). The only other actor who appears at night is Judas Iscariot, who departs into the night to betray Jesus (13:30). Nicodemus is a man of the darkness while Jesus is the light (1:4, 8). John’s subsequent commentary (3:19ff.) says this plainly: Jesus is light that has come into the world, but men and women prefer darkness. In this case, however, Nicodemus has made a serious choice: He has stepped into the light to make inquiries. NIV Life Application Commentary, John ]
Nicodemus’s first question shows admirable respect. He called Jesus Rabbi, or esteemed teacher (despite Jesus’ lack of credentials, 7:15), and says we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. The plural pronoun we means Nicodemus and other like minded persons (2:23; 3:11 - Is he an emissary assigned to return with a report?). The reason for their conviction of Jesus’ authenticity is that no one could perform the miraculous signs You are doing if God were not with him. His efforts must have some divine endorsement. They were convinced that Jesus must stand in very close relationship with God to be able to do these signs.