Summary: A sermon looking into the visit of Nicodemus to Jesus under the cloak of darkness.
Hillsborough Reformed Church at Millstone
February 20, 2005
¡§The New Birth¡¨
Surreptitious, sneaky, scared, apprehensive, unsure, clandestine. All these words apply to Nicodemus who approached Jesus late one night under the cover of darkness. Not many crimes happen in broad daylight. Thieves like the cover of darkness so they cannot be seen. The night holds secrets. Nighttime is when people whisper things they don¡¦t want to be heard by certain people.
Nicodemus chose the night to come to see Jesus and ask him questions. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and by this time, the Pharisees regarded Jesus as their enemy. It didn¡¦t matter to them what Jesus said. They wouldn¡¦t give Jesus the benefit of the doubt. They were now doing everything in their power to undermine him, to discredit him, to destroy him. But there was at least one Pharisee that we know of, named Nicodemus, who placed value on what Jesus was doing and saying and he wanted to know more.
So he came to Jesus to debate with him and try to learn more about Jesus¡¦ point of view, to see if he was indeed teaching the truth. It sounded to Nicodemus like Jesus might be the real thing. But Nicodemus would not approach Jesus in the afternoon when he stood preaching in front of everyone. If the other Pharisees knew that Nicodemus was talking to Jesus, they would have at least ridiculed him, but maybe even ostracized him. It was too risky. Yet Nicodemus was drawn to our Lord, so he settled on coming to Jesus at night, privately, when no one else would see or hear.
¡§Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.¡¨
Jesus, in his typical fashion, says something that seems unrelated to what was said to him. Jesus says, ¡§Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.¡¨
Already, at the beginning of the conversation, Nicodemus is lost. I wish John had recorded in his gospel what Nicodemus must have been thinking, which was something like, ¡§Whoa, what are you talking about?¡¨
Instead we read the answer Nicodemus gave which shows his utter confusion: ¡§How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother¡¦s womb and be born?¡¨
Is Jesus deliberately trying to confuse poor Nicodemus? After all, shouldn¡¦t this one, good Pharisee get a word of praise or encouragement from Jesus?
Jesus is not deliberately trying to confuse Nicodemus, he is trying to show him the truth.
Sometimes when you are living in lies and falsehood, it is hard to comprehend the truth. If you are walking in a dark room, and suddenly someone shoots the camera flash in your face, it doesn¡¦t help you see, it makes things worse as large bright spots appear before your eyes. Maybe that¡¦s what it was like talking to Jesus, the most truthful man who ever lived.
A criminal who has justified his life of crime for years and years will have trouble coming to grips with the truth about his own behavior.
Or consider therapy. Therapy in our country is a growth industry as we try to sort out our moods and behaviors to get better. We need therapy because for years we have been living with a distorted picture of ourselves. It takes time to change our outlook.
Jesus didn¡¦t give Nicodemus any time, he just gave him the whole truth all at once. That¡¦s all Jesus had time to do. After all, he was going to the cross very soon.
But you have to hand it to Nicodemus. He doesn¡¦t give up. He does what we do. He keeps digging himself deeper and deeper. And with each shovelful, Jesus gives him more truth.
When the electricity goes out in your home at night, it is suddenly very dark. You grab the flashlight and find the drawer where you keep the candles. You take a bunch out, strike a match, and light a candle. It gives a dim glow in the room. You need more, so you keep lighting candles and putting them in holders until the whole room has enough light so you can see everything. So Jesus lights some candles.
Jesus continues: Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ¡¥You must be born from above.¡¦ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.