Summary: The 9th in our series on the Gospel of John. In this sermon we examine the famous encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus
You Must Be Born Again (John Pt. 9)
Text: John 3:1 – 15
Well, today we’ve come to the most familiar chapter in the Gospel of John… and it contains probably the most well-known verse in all the Bible. It’s John chapter three, and we’re going to read verses 1 – 15, so we won’t get to John 3:16 today, but we’ll probably spend at least two, if not three Sunday’s on this chapter, just so everyone gets a really good understanding of it.
So the text starts out by telling us that there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, and that he wasn’t only just a Pharisee, but he was considered a ruler of the Jews. That’s John’s way of telling us that this guy Nicodemus was part of the ruling council of Jews known as the Sanhedrin. And then verse two tells us that he came to Jesus at night.
Now I think that’s important… there’s a reason that John tells us that. It tells us something about Nicodemus at the time. You see; we know he’s a Pharisee, and we know he’s a ruler of the Jews… meaning he’s part of the Sanhedrin. And so he had the authority to go and talk to just about anyone he wanted to concerning religious matters. He could question anyone in Israel about what they believed. In-fact; later on, in the Book of Acts, it’s the Sanhedrin that sends Saul (who later becomes Paul) out to persecute Christians. So it wouldn’t have been out of Nicodemus’ range of authority to approach Jesus at any time and say, “So tell me about what you believe Jesus?” But he comes at night. And there are some pastors and scholars out there, who say that Nicodemus did that because he was afraid of being seen with Jesus, and afraid that people might start talking. That may be the case, but remember, it wouldn’t have been a big deal for Nicodemus to be seen talking to Jesus. In studying this Gospel, and in studying this guy Nicodemus, I actually think he comes at night for concern over Jesus’ well-being.
You see: had Nicodemus come during the day, and made his talk with Jesus public, and Jesus didn’t answer the questions in a way that was acceptable to the Sanhedrin, then Nicodemus would’ve been obligated to turn Him in and have Him arrested. But he doesn’t want to arrest Jesus. He wants to see where He’s coming from, and what it is that Jesus is actually teaching. And not only that… the last part of verse two tells us that Nicodemus is interested in these signs and wonders – these miraculous things that Jesus is able to do.
And one of the most interesting things in this entire passage is that when Nicodemus approaches Jesus, he calls Him “Rabbi” – “Teacher”. That’s amazing to me… that would be sort of like a college professor calling a first semester freshman “professor”. So there’s some respect here from Nicodemus. And there’s an awareness of at least some of what Jesus has said and taught.
And basically Nicodemus comes up to Jesus and says, “Jesus, we know that somehow God is involved in what You’re doing, otherwise You wouldn’t be able to do all these miracles.” But Jesus doesn’t bite. Verse 3 – (I love this), “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Instead of answering Nicodemus, or even addressing what he’s brought up, Jesus goes right to the point.
Now I want you to catch what’s happened here. Nicodemus, this highly respected religious leader had come to Jesus, and he’s asking him religious questions, and Jesus basically tells him, “Nicodemus, you won’t be able to see it or understand it unless you’re born again.” This guy – Nicodemus – is a ruler of the Jews… he’s supposed to be right with God. So this would be like a David Platt, Al Mohler, or John Piper, or even a Billy Graham coming up to Jesus and Jesus telling them that they needed to be born again… Now I’m not saying that those guys aren’t or weren’t born again. I’m just saying that this is what this situation would be like.
So Jesus says to Nicodemus; and I’ll read it like it’s written in the original Greek, “If anyone is not born from above then he will not be able to see and understand the rule and reign of God.”
You won’t be able to get it. You won’t be able to comprehend it; or even understand it.
It will make no sense to you. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing
And then look what happens – Nicodemus proves what Jesus has just said. He asks, “How can a man be born when he’s old? Can he enter again into his mother’s womb?”