Summary: Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. Sincere seekers need to be born again.
“When a Religion Becomes a Relationship”
Steve Hanchett, pastor
Berry Road Baptist Church
April 22, 2001
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no on can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. Sop is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus answered and aid to Him, “How can these things be?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these thing? Most assuredly I say to you, We speak what we know and testify what we have see, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I heard a story this week about three men that died and were standing at the gates of heaven. They were asked what they had done to deserve being allowed into heaven. The first one said that he was a police officer and had spent his life helping enforce the law and keeping crime down. Peter looked at him, nodded and said, “OK, go on in.”
The second man said that he was very wealthy, but had given a lot of his money to help good causes. Again, Peter shook his head and gave the go ahead.
The third man said that he had been a director of an HMO organization. He said he had saved millions of dollars in health care costs for insurance companies and clients and had cut down on waste, fraud and abuse in the health care system.
Peter looked at him and said, “OK you can go in, but you can only stay for three days.”
We laugh at jokes about people showing up at the “pearly gates” abound. Behind most of these jokes, though, is the assumption that we must do something to get in to heaven. It is almost shocking to some people to hear that they can’t do anything to merit entrance into heaven. Most people don’t think with grace.
Nicodemus was one of those people who had a hard time comprehending the idea of free grace salvation. We are introduced to Nicodemus in John chapter three and he shows up again in chapter seven and chapter nineteen. We know several things about Nicodemus.
First, we know his name was a Greek name that meant, “victor over the people.” This does not mean that he was a Greek. He was most certainly a Jew. But his name demonstrates how much Greek culture had influenced Greek life. Possibly his parents were hellenized Jews who took a Greek name for their son.
The second thing we know about Nicodemus is that he was a Pharisee. Of course, most of what we know about the Pharisees we know by reading the New Testament. And if one has read what the gospel’s record about the Pharisees they probably have a pretty negative picture in their mind.
It is interesting that one doesn’t find any record of the Pharisees in the Old Testament. Somewhere between Malachi and Matthew, a period of about four hundred years, the Pharisees came into being. Historians tend to believe that the sect of the Pharisees developed during the period of the Maccabean wars. Greek culture was sweeping the world and had infected the Jewish people along with everyone else.
But among the Jews there were certain people who abhorred the idolatrous customs of the Greeks. That abhorrence was coupled with resistance against the fierce religious persecution brought on by Antichocus Epiphanes. Those who stood the line against compromising with Hellenistic culture and refused to abandon the faith were called “Hasidim” or saints. It is believed that these Hasidim were the forerunners to the Pharisees of Jesus day.