Summary: Jesus gives Nicodemus three important facts about being born again.
A Study of the Book of John
“That You May Believe”
Sermon # 8
“You Must Be Born Again”
What would you say if I were to ask you this morning, “Give one good reason why you should go to Heaven?” The answers that we would get from asking the question, “Are you going to heaven?” are fairly predictable. There would be a variety of answers. Some would say “I hope so.” Some would say, “I am trying,” or “I am doing the best I can!” Some would say, “Yes, because I have been baptized.” Others would say, “Yes, because I am a church member.” But none of them would be right.
The question, “Are you going to Heaven? And, if so, why?” It is without a doubt “the” most important question your mind can ever entertain. The reason that this is such an important question is obvious, there is only one alternative to heaven. That is hell, the place the Bible calls outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, where "the smoke of their torment ascends up for ever: and they have no rest day nor night." And there is nothing in between. It is Heaven or it is Hell. God says in His Word that all men and women must appear before Him in death. Then they shall be divided as a shepherd would divide the sheep from the goats; one into everlasting punishment, into everlasting hell and torment; and the other into everlasting glory.
In John chapter three we have more than the record of a two-thousand year old conversation, we have the answer to the question, “How do we get to Heaven?” In this text, a man approaches Jesus late one night with a look of quiet desperation. His name is Nicodemus and he comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness to ask that question -- the one that had been keeping him awake at night. In verse one we read, “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. (2) This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
In order to understand this story, we need to notice three things about this man named Nicodemus.
First, besides his name the text reveals that he was a “Pharisee.” If you know anything about the Scriptures you probably have a negative view of the Pharisees. You may think that all Pharisees were legalistic hypocrites, but that is not true at all. In the days of Jesus the Pharisees were a very much respected group known for their knowledge of the Old Testament and their scrupulous keeping of the law. The Pharisees were the theological conservatives of their day, and they believed that the Old Testament was the revealed Word of God which contained an inspired of code of ethics which should be practiced literally. This was such a demanding life that only a few thousand were ever willing to make the commitment.
Secondly, note also that Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee but he was also one of the most important religious teachers of his day. He is also called a “ruler of the Jews.” From what we read about Nicodemus in John chapter seven we can conclude with some confidence that Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish legal court in the land. This was a select group of seventy men who served as the highest Jewish court in the land, much like our present day Supreme Court Justices.
Third, it is also important to note that in verse eleven that Jesus refers to him as “the teacher of Israel.” Notice the definite article is used. He is not called just “a” teacher but “the” teacher. The meaning seems to be that Nicodemus was probably the most popular religious teacher of Judaism at the time.
If you want one word that would describe Nicodemus, it would be this: He was good! He was very good! But he still had this nagging question that his religion could not seem to answer. So he comes to Jesus to ask his question. I can imagine Nicodemus watching from the shadows as Jesus did his work -- preaching and teaching and healing. And as he watched, Nicodemus saw something in Jesus that all his religious rule keeping hadn’t been able to provide. He saw LIFE! It was as if God was pouring out life through Jesus. So he comes to Jesus to ask his questions, because he senses that Jesus has the truth from God.
The core of what he wanted to know from Jesus was this: “Jesus, is my goodness, good enough to get me into Heaven? Is my goodness good enough to make me acceptable to a Holy God? Is my goodness good enough to get me in?” We all want to ask Jesus that question? Don’t we?