Summary: Evangelistic sermon concerning Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus.
John 3:1-7, 16
There was an old farmer and his wife who had turned in for the night and were just about to fall off to sleep when they heard the clock in the hallway begin to chime. They heard it chime nine o’clock, ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. Finally, the wife turned to her husband and said,
"Just what time is it anyway?" The old farmer replied, "I don’t know, but it’s later than it’s ever been before."
I don’t know about you, but I know with such recent tragedies as the Oklahoma City bombing that, perhaps all of us have that sense, realizing that no one knows exactly what time it is, but we are certainly closer to the Lord’s coming than we have ever been before.
One night, a few days after the bombing had taken place, a CNN report indicated that the rescue attempts were grinding to a halt; they were going to end the next day. One of the reporters, apparently trying to bolster the spirit of the nation, concluded his report that evening by quoting the poem "Invictus." He came to that last line, and he said with great fervor: "I am the captain of my fate, master of my soul."
Isn’t that a foolish statement? Here he was standing right in front of a monument to the contrary! No one is captain of their fate! No one knows the days that we will have upon this earth! So it is with a great sense of urgency that I ask you this question: Have you come to the place in your own spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die tonight, that you would go to heaven?
A Question of Uncertainty
As we come to this passage in John 3, we are going to read the story of a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a man who, for almost all of his entire life, thought that he knew for certain that he was going to go to heaven when he died ... until Jesus arrived on the scene. We don’t know if Nicodemus had heard Jesus teach personally prior to this time or if he had just heard about His teachings.
Whatever was the case, as we read this passage, we can sense that there is a sudden doubt that has arrived on the frontier of Nicodemus’ heart and mind.
There’s a question. He is no longer certain.
READ John 3:1-3
Now wait a minute, did we miss something there? "In reply..." You see, Jesus is replying to a question that Nicodemus never asked, but because Jesus knows the hearts of all men and women, He knew the question that was on Nicodemus’ heart.
READ John 3:3-7
With those five little words ("You must be born again."), Jesus pulverized every single religious prop upon which Nicodemus had been leaning his entire life.
So then, Nicodemus was left to wonder. You see, Nicodemus, as a Pharisee for his entire life, had been banking on two different things to get him to heaven.
First, he had been banking upon his religious heritage. He was a son of Abraham.
He was a Jew of all Jews. He was one of God’s chosen people. By his religious heritage, he was going to enter the kingdom of God. He was going to enter into heaven.
Second, he was also banking upon his religious rule-keeping. The Pharisees were the self-appointed guardians of the law. They were the rule-keepers of all rule-keepers. In fact, they added a number of rules onto that original law of Moses, some six hundred different rules, that Nicodemus kept. Jesus called it "straining at a gnat." They strained to keep those rules. Nicodemus was the chief of all rule-keepers, even a ruler of the Sanhedrin ... the Jewish ruling body of only seven members.
So Nicodemus was banking upon his religious heritage and his religious rule-keeping. Then Jesus just jerks this religious rug right out from underneath him and says, "No, Nicodemus! You must be born again." "You must be born from above" is another translation of that phrase. You must be born of God’s Spirit.
Right Destination, Wrong Ticket
Wow! Nicodemus didn’t know how to handle it. He didn’t know how to respond. If I could compare it to a modern-day analogy, let’s put it like this. It’s as though Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that he was like a man who would go out to Mr. Cheap-O Travel Agency and buy what he thinks is a real airline ticket. Then he goes out to the airport and finds the proper terminal. He sits confidently, holding onto what he thinks is a real ticket. The plane arrives. He walks to the gate. He’s about to enter in, and the attendant checks his ticket and says, "Sir, I’m sorry. This ticket that you’re holding is a fake ticket." So the man is shocked as the plane takes off, leaving him behind. All that while, he was holding onto what he thought was a real ticket that turns out to be a bogus one.