Summary: This sermon examines the night-time meeting between Nicodemus and Jesus.
Title: The Politician and The Prophet
Text: John 3:1-18
Location: Sulphur Spring Baptist Church
Introduction: This is an election year. Next month will be electing a Governor. Then in November of 2008 we will be electing a New President. For some reason I’ve always been interested in politics. When I went to college I majored in Political Science and at the time thought I might end up running for political office. But, that was before God called me into the ministry.
People get into Politics for various reasons. A few simply want to serve & represent the people in their community. Some want the fame and the prestige that comes with holding an elected office. Others have an unquenchable thirst for power and authority and see politics as a means to that end.
In 1976 a relatively unknown politician from the small town of Plains, Georgia decided to run for President. His name was Jimmy Carter, and although he had served as the Governor of Georgia, no one else in the country knew very much about him. During that campaign he was asked about his faith and responded by saying that He was a ‘Born again Christian.” Most of the reporters who were following Carter had never heard the term before. They had absolutely no idea what it meant to be “Born Again, or why Carter would use that phrase to describe his faith.
Well, Jimmy Carter may have been the first politician to use that phrase but it didn’t originate with him. Jesus is the one who initially used the phrase while talking to another Politician, a man by the name of Nicodemus.
This morning I want to take a closer look at the meeting that took place between Nicodemus and Jesus. So turn with me if you will to John 3:1, we will begin there.
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.”
This man named Nicodemus is only mentioned 3 times in the Bible, and all three references come from the Gospel of John. So consequently we don’t know a lot about Nicodemus, but this first verse gives us some important information about him that we need to understand before we go any further.
1. Nicodemus was a Pharisee.
The Pharisee’s were a Jewish sect made up of about 6000 men during the time of Christ. They were very legalistic and emphasized the importance of keeping the Law of Moses. They saw themselves as the guardians of true Judaism and consequently when John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries, the Pharisee’s were quick to check them out.
We discover in Luke 7:30 that they refused to be baptized by John the Baptist, probably because they didn’t consider themselves to be sinners. Therefore, in their minds there was no need for them to repent of their sins and be baptized. So they opposed John the Baptist’s ministry, and would eventually also oppose the ministry of Christ.
So Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was a very religious man, a man who took his faith seriously. Yet something was missing. Something wasn’t quite right. Even though he did his best to be a good Pharisee, he still wasn’t happy. He still felt like something was missing in his life.
2. Secondly, not only was Nicodemus a Pharisee, but according to this verse he was a member of the Jewish Ruling council, which we sometimes refer to as the Sanhedrin.
The Sanhedrin was made up of 71 of the most well respected men in Israel. It was a political, religious, and judicial body that basically served as the “Supreme Court” in Jewish society. It was made up of the chief priests, elders, and the teachers of the Law. So not only was Nicodemus a very religious man, but he was also a very well respected and powerful man. He was a man of stature and influence in the community, a man that people looked up to.
So why would such an important man in Jewish society want to talk with an itinerant preacher from Nazareth? Let’s find out. Look with me at verse 2.
“HE CAME TO JESUS AT NIGHT AND SAID, “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.”
Now I think it is interesting that it says that Nicodemous came to Jesus at night. It doesn’t tell us why he did this, but I can think of a couple of good possibilities.
(1) Nicodemous didn’t want to be seen talking to Jesus in public. Why not?
The most obvious reason is that he didn’t want anyone, especially the other Pharisees and members of the Sanhedrin to know about it. This event took place early in Jesus’ ministry and the Pharisees had not yet made their minds up about Jesus. Perhaps this is why Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus, which leads me to a second possible reason for going to see Jesus at night.