for Trinity Sunday
1. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.(John 3:1-16)
Today’s text is about the change of the heart that we call regeneration, and we also are going to compare two entirely different men both of whom began their journey in totally different places, and each going in the opposite direction – JUDAS and NICODEMUS.
Precisely what IS regeneration and how does it occur?
Regeneration is not merely an IMPROVEMENT of character brought about through effort and study of classical philosophy, or even of the study of God’s Word. Regeneration is that complete change of character that occurs through the process of being born anew in Christ. Anything that is born is a new creature. Anything that is born anew is also a new creature whose former character and habits have disappeared. – or even died with the old self (which was also dead before coming to Christ). It is not an improvement of disposition, but a fundamental change in nature much like the metamorphisis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
1. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night. By the way: there was a contrasting character who had followed our Lord throughout His ministry and was an Apostle, but he did not come by night; but he surely LEFT by Night as we shall see shortly.
We see a contrast being drawn in the text between a man of great power, wealth, and learning; and the Lord Jesus Christ who did not have a place to lay His head. Nicodemus was an influential member of the ruling Sanhedrin. He was a Pharisee who truly sought more knowledge. But Nicodemus was also keen to the politics of the day and did not wish to be exposed as someone who would be an admirer of Christ – at least not until he had come to know Him for the Lord that He was. He was the kind of man who first counted the cost before a decision. So, Nicodemus came under cover of darkness. I know that secrecy was his motive from other Scripture references that suggest that motive strongly.
Earlier in the day, Nicodemus had seen Christ drive out the money changers and those who made merchandise of the House of God. He had heard, that day, His strange but refreshing counsel: Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. (John 2:16) He had heard the profound and beautiful teachings of Christ and seen His miracles. His logical mind could not deny that Jesus had strange powers that could only come from God, unlike those political posers who sat with him on the Sanhedrin.
If we desire to know a man better, we must find out where He is and talk with him. Nicodemus obviously had scouted out Christ to know where He was sleeping in Jerusalem that first Passover of Christ’s ministry.
……… and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him
Nicodemus has the least seed of faith in his heart, but it was enough to drive him to Christ. He recognized the power of God in Christ and he must settle the issue before the dawning of another day. Though he comes here at night, he later publicly defends Christ in the Sanhedrin (John 7:50-52) and even publicly goes with Joseph of Arimethaea to claim the body of Christ for burial even under threat of retribution from Rome and the Jewish rulers (John 19:39). The one who came by night later became one who feared no one but God. John considers the change in Nicodemus so significant that he always makes reference to Nicodemus in later references as “he who came to Jesus by night.” This demonstrates the change of heart and increasing courage inculcated by being “born again” in Christ.
Jesus is frank in His approach to Nicodemus. He knows the heart of Nicodemus, and He knows that complete transparency and blunt truth is the very thing Nicodemus desires.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus tells Nicodemus what he desperately NEEDS to know, not that which his ears would have been comforted to hear. Nicodemus considered himself to be a great teacher, yet he calls Christ RABBI., or Teacher. Nicodemus is not too proud to accept the role of student before superior knowledge of a better Teacher. But these words of Christ are simply too amazing for Nicodemus to grasp.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? This is not a frivolous response by Nicodemus. He does not ask WHY, but HOW. If Jesus were making reference to the Gentiles, Nicodemus could have understood somewhat, but Jesus is speaking to a ruler of the Jews – the presumed people of God! To Nicodemus, it does not make sense, but he trusts in the superior wisdom of Christ to shed light on the matter. Our first longings of faith must be satisfied through deeper inquiry even if we risk ridicule by the world.
5. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again Nicodemus belonged to a religion that based salvation upon a complete obedience to the Law written on Tables of Stone. It was a difficult concept to receive that his entire previous training had been lacking. Christ points to a change that is alien to Nicodemus’ thinking. There is the story of an owner of a clothing store that decided to clean his main display window. He gathered his cleaning materials and went outside to clean. After working diligently, the window appeared immaculate with the exception of a single troubling blemish high up on the glass. Regardless the efforts and elbow grease used to clean the spot, it remained a glaring flaw in an otherwise clear glass. At last he discovered that the dirty blemish was not on the outside, but the INSIDE of the glass. Regardless our efforts to dress and beautify our persons, we cannot cleanse the heart by dressing the outward appearance with good works. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalms 51:7) God cleans us inside first with the purgative of the Holy Spirit ere making our appearance clean on the outside. If the heart is full of filth, it matters not the outward APPEARANCE.
When we lay down this life, we lay down the body of flesh before our parents who gave us our traits and hereditary and features of flesh. We then are drawn in the spirit back to the Father who gave us the Spirit of Life. Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Eccl 12:6-7)
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Does any man have the key to the gate of the wind, to open and close as he deems fit? The Wind is no different in certain aspects than the Holy Spirit. We do not know the source of the wind, but we KNOW it has a source. We can hear the wind if we are quiet and attentive. It literally whispers as that still, small voice of God. (1 Kings 19:12) We cannot say its direction or where it is going. The Wind is unseen just as the Holy Spirit is unseen. We see its effects, but not its essence. Those who are born of God have been touched by that Wind of the Holy Spirit. Their change is complete and not prideful in display.
Can you imagine Nicodemus’ eyes squinting in effort to understand this strange new doctrine? . 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things
Nicodemus is very much like many who are educated in theology and who press a single olive until it becomes a watermelon. He is well educated but, unfortunately, in things that are not real. Jesus points out his ignorance to him. Many prominent theologians of our day lack the simple wisdom of a poor farmer who knows the Lord. This was Nicodemus’ problem, but he is open to amendment in understanding. I wish we all were.
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? Jesus places His evidence before the bar. He taught often in parables so that the simple farmer or fisherman could grasp greater spiritual truth when illustrated by earthly logic. But those educated too much in ‘theological error’ may not be able to grasp the simplicity of the Gospel which a child can easily grasp. It is not faith and knowledge that saves us, but ‘faith in Christ’ and right knowledge of Him. We may know the print in a thousand theological works, but if we lack the nature of a little child in faith, we are lost.
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. Despite the delusional dreams and copyrighted commercial works of many today, no one has ascended to heaven or come down but Christ.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. God sent fiery serpents among the Children of Israel in the Wilderness for their sins. When they pleaded for relief, God told Moses to erect a brass serpent on a pole for all to look unto when bitten that they might live. The serpent represented our sins that are crucified on the cross with Christ. Looking to the sacrifice of Christ, for our own sins, we are saved from eternal death. (Numbers 21:6-9) We have the same symbolized in the medical Caduceus today.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life Do not be deceived by modern versions of the Bible such as the NIV or ESV. Jesus Christ is the literal ISSUE of the Father. He is God because He is of the same substance with God. Not ‘a’ son or daughter through the adoption that we are, but the true and issuing Son of the Father – the only Begotten, not One and Only!
We see that Nicodemus came to Christ out of the dark of night, but left with a new light of learning and wisdom in Christ for Christ is the Light of the World.
Contrast the man, Nicodemus, with the man, Judas. Judas was the man who most likely coveted his responsibility to carry the purse (bag) for the group of disciples. He was with the Lord during most of His profound teaching, healing, and other works of miraculous and divine power. Yet, Judas, knowing all of that, betrayed Christ with a kiss in the dead of night.
At the Last Supper of our Lord, after He had washed the disciples feet, we read: “21 When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 22 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. 23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. 28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.” John 13:21-30 (KJV)
Where did Judas go after he was exposed by receiving the sop? He went out from the Lord and it was NIGHT. It was an eternal night for before daybreak, Judas was hanging in the Potter’s Field. He never saw another sunrise. Look at the contrast in destinies of Nicodemus and Judas. Nicodemus came out of the dark night to the Light of Christ and left with that glowing light. Judas, on the other hand, followed in the Light during most of our Lord’s ministry, yet, went out into the eternal night. A warning to the wise is sufficient.