Who is Jesus? John 3:1-21

In this passage, John records an encounter between Jesus and a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus.  Their discussion in the dark of night includes probably the most well know verse in the Bible – John 3:16.  But before we get there, what is going on here?

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, a man of authority by right of his position, comes to Jesus and calls him Rabbi.  I believe that his deference to Jesus is genuine because he mentions the signs as indicating that God is with Jesus.  Jesus, however, seems to have no time for polite small talk.  He goes directly to the requirement for a person’s access to God’s kingdom, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (born from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Many times in the Gospel of John we notice that, while Jesus speaks of spiritual things, those he addresses insist on remaining in the physical realm.  They are expecting a Messiah to deliver them from their current Roman oppression instead of a Deliverer from the oppression of their sins.  They thought they would be given a king, but instead heard strange teachings about the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus, a respected teacher of Israel, comes to Jesus, a teacher unapproved by recognized human authorities.

I’m pretty sure that someone of Nicodemus’ training would be able to grasp the import of Jesus’ examples of spiritual birth, the wind blowing, and Moses lifting of the serpent.  His problem then is with Jesus’ assertions about where Jesus came from and who sent Him.  Nicodemus acknowledges that God is with Jesus, but it would mean quite another thing to be from God of heaven.

It would also have been a stumbling block for Nicodemus to accept that all of his self-righteousness did not qualify him for the kingdom.  He had to be born again – start over as a dependent babe.  Add to this the statement that God’s love is for the world and not just Israel, that the anticipated judgment of God upon the oppressors is not now, that he might be under judgment, and the carefully constructed system of the religious Jews is threatened.

John tells us just a little bit more about Nicodemus.  In John 7:51, we find him debating with other Pharisees about applying “the law” in their judgment of Jesus (I shiver at the thought of judging Jesus!).  Then we see him one more time, again at night, bringing a huge amount of spices for the wrapping of the body removed from the cross (John 19:38-42).

From the time Adam and Eve sewed their own coverings, human beings have tried to cover their shame before God.  We make up our own gods, create rituals to secure access to God, and format systems to make ourselves right, even denying our shame.   God’s son came to earth as Jesus incarnate to save sinful, condemned men.  He knew God, came from God, and was given by God to secure salvation.  But, those who reject the only begotten Son of God remain in their condemnation.

Believe.  Be born from above.  Love the Light.  Practice truth.


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