Summary: Jesus tells Nicodemus of the new birth.
If you’ve ever taught a class, there is one kind of student that can absolutely drive you crazy. And it seems like there’s one in every crowd. That’s the person who has an answer for everything. I got a kick out of a couple of the kids during the youth rally who were like that. In the very first breakout group I taught, there was a girl from another church who broke in the middle of almost everything I said. I’d say a few words, then she’d provide commentary. Now, she was a sweet girl and didn’t mean anything by it, but some people do that because they really, truly think they have all the answers. They think they’ve got it all figured out. That was the way Nicodemus was.
Nicodemus was the man who had all the answers. Verse 1 tells us that he was a man of the Pharisees and that he was a ruler of the Jews. That was two different things. Typically, the Pharisees weren’t rulers. They were religious scholars. They were PhD seminary professor types. The name itself comes from a Hebrew word that means “to separate”. They considered themselves the separated ones. They separated themselves from the world and to the Old Testament Mosaic Law. As a matter of fact, they were so careful to avoid breaking any of the Old Testament laws, that they made up their own. Think of it like they built a fence around the law. If the law said you can’t work on the Sabbath, the Pharisees added to it just to make sure you didn’t even accidentally break the law. Of course, this is where they went overboard. They began to see their fence as important as the law itself. And not only that, they actually believed that they could attain righteousness by keeping the law. That was their goal. They thought they could earn their way to heaven by their own works. Of course, if you think that, you’re going to be extra careful to know everything you can about the rules. That’s why the Pharisees were such great scholars. They knew everything there was to know about the Old Testament. They knew everything there was to know about the Law. And they knew everything there was to know about their own rules—that fence around the law. If anybody knew all the answers, it was a Pharisee. So, as a Pharisee, Nicodemus thought he had it all figured out. And then Jesus came along. Jesus came along and messed up his whole worldview. Because Jesus came doing two things that Nicodemus just couldn’t reconcile. First, He came performing miracles. Nicodemus could understand that. Many of the Old Testament prophets like Elijah and Elisha performed miracles. In Nicodemus’ mind, that just meant that Jesus was another great prophet from God. He said as much in verse 2 when he said that nobody can do the miracles that you do unless God is with him. But here was what didn’t fit into Nicodemus’ worldview. Here was what brought an unanswerable question to the mind of the answer man. Jesus wasn’t claiming to be a prophet sent from God. Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God. That meant that He was claiming that He was equal to God. And in Nicodemus’ mind, that was blasphemy. It was impossible and it was blasphemy. Nicodemus was a thinker. And the more he thought about it, the more it blew his mind. It didn’t fit. He couldn’t make sense of it. So, being a thinker, he went to the source.