There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
Dear God, I need some time with you this morning. I need some time to center myself back on you. I need to spend some time letting the Holy Spirit envelope my soul. For the last couple of days, I have not taken any time to really immerse myself in you, and I miss you. Oh, how grateful I am to miss you.
As I thought about finding some scripture through which I could try to hear your voice this morning, I thought about the rant that Jesus goes on in his conversation at night with Nicodemus. I was listening to a praise and worship song and watching the video on YouTube when I saw a slide that had the words for John 3:16-17. It reminded me that those verses are just a small part of this little speech Jesus gives to Nicodemus. Is it possible the words you had for Nicodemus 2,000 years ago are the same words you have for me this morning? Maybe so, maybe not, but there might just be something in here for me.
This starts with Nicodemus, a Pharisee, labeling Jesus as a teacher sent from God. Jesus implies back that Nicodemus cannot see (experience/enter into personally) your Kingdom because he has not been born again. Confused, Nicodemus asks him to explain.
Jesus explains that we must embrace being transformed into a new creation by your Spirit, the Holy Spirit, in order to know you and your kingdom. I cannot do it in my own power. Maybe that’s what I was missing this morning–doing it on my own for a couple of days and feeling the difference.
When Nicodemus presses for further explanation (verse 9) Jesus takes off. Here is an outline of where he goes:
- You don’t believe me when I tell you things about earth and the realities here even though you can see them with your own eyes. How will you ever believe me about heaven?
- The Israelites looked upon the bronze snake to save them from the snake bites in the wilderness. Jesus will save all of us in the same way. Ever since I preached on this passage two years ago, I have tried to remember that every time I see a cross or a crucifix. My savior.
- John 3:16 and 17 are an extension of this thought. God gave Jesus to be my redemption. Redemption that comes through God’s power and not mine. He didn’t do this to condemn me, but to save me.
- This is the part that is hard for me. To think of all of the people who do not believe. There are categories of those people. Those who have never heard of you so they don’t know to believe. Those who were raised in other religions and believe in that and not you. Those who were raised with no religion and have a hard time believing. And then those who were raised and trained in you and then walk away.
- People loved the darkness more than the light. That can certainly be me at any given time. I heard Rich Mullins say one time that sometimes he just wanted you to turn away and ignore him so he could do what he wanted without your judgment–at least for a little while. But the truth is, it’s not your judgment we should fear as much on earth as it is the emptiness of walking away and the vicious cycle of hiding our shame that comes with walking away.
- Hiding from the light and going towards the light. What an interesting message from Jesus to Nicodemus as they talked at night. I never thought of this before, but was this Jesus pointing out to Nicodemus that he was hiding from the light as he came to learn more from Jesus. Interestingly, Nicodemus would continue to follow Jesus in the shadows until Jesus’s death, when he broke ranks with the Pharisees and went to help Joseph of Arimathea to care for Jesus’s body and put him in the tomb.
Father, draw me close to you. Never let me go. I lay it all down again, to hear you say that I’m your friend. You are my desire. No one else will do. Because nothing can ever take your place. To feel the warmth of your embrace. Help me find the way. Bring me back to you. You’re all I want. You’re all I’ve ever needed. You’re all I want. Bring me back to you.
In Jesus’s name I pray,