Jesus and Nicodemus
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. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
The Mystery of Faith
Nicodemus is a chief of the Jews, one who should know, a theological professional. He and the Jewish upper class know without a doubt who Jesus is, because: “No one can do what you do unless God is with him.” Nevertheless, they rejected him! A momentous decision! Til today.
Nicodemus, in contrast to the others, wants to know honestly, but does not dare to visit Jesus in public and discuss his questions with him. That’s why he comes when nobody sees him: at night. But that’s still better than keeping your questions to yourself and continuing to grope in the dark.
Jesus accepts this and responds to his questions. He knows about our blindness, that we cannot see the kingdom of God, its reality and truth, from within ourselves. We need his help for that. That’s still like that. The Bible speaks of the “mystery of faith”. But today we act as if this secret does not exist. We supposedly know everything, and so it is that we have made faith in Jesus a religion where everyone who is a member of a church belongs. But that is not the truth. Let’s not fool ourselves: even the supposed professionals in the faith, like the Jewish elite at that time, don’t really know Jesus just because they studied theology, unless they have a personal relationship with him. Faith cannot be studied like a profession, it can only be given as a gift through the Spirit of God! Only when HE opens our eyes to it can we see the truth. So don’t just believe everything the authorities tell you. Faith in Jesus actually means a belonging, a trusting relationship with Jesus, what Jesus calls following.
Jesus’ answer seems strange and impossible: Unless one is born again, one cannot see the kingdom of God. He compares the kingdom of God to the wind. Nobody can see it and doesn’t know where its origin is. But you can feel it. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit of God.
And Nicodemus? Apparently, he has so much trust in Jesus that he doesn’t immediately turn away because he thinks: The man is fantasizing! Nobody can be born again, no, he stays and asks. He wants to know exactly: How can it be possible to be born again? That defies all common sense!
Jesus explains that even if a person could be born again naturally (if he could be born again into his mother’s womb), after the new, natural birth he would still not be born again according to the divine nature, but always still only by human nature, nothing would have changed. No, we must be born again according to the divine nature! We must be born again by the Holy Spirit of God! Only then do we see and experience the kingdom of God. But then it’s like the wind: no one knows where it comes from and where it’s going. Born again man has two “citizenships,” human and divine. Everyone can see the human identity, but not the divine identity.
All this sounds very implausible to human ears. You just can’t see it. Our faith is in demand here. Hebrews 11:6:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
When people talk about the kingdom of God, when they pass on the gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, most people don’t believe them. That’s how it was with Jesus (v. 11), that’s how it is to this day, and that’s understandable, because talking about something that you can’t see usually sounds pretty implausible.
But Jesus gives us a crucial clue here: the resurrection! He says:
“… no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (V. 13)
The resurrection of Jesus is the most divine event ever seen by man, and it is the divine confirmation of Jesus as the Messenger and Son of God. The Christian faith stands and falls with it. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”
The effects of the resurrection are still being felt today, and no one would be talking about believing in Jesus today if it hadn’t happened. At the same time, it is the historical event that has by far the largest body of evidence in all of history. >The reliability of the New Testament is further confirmed by over 36,000 non-biblical Christian documents.< (Are the Gospels reliable?)
The risen Christ was seen by a great many people, once even by more than 500 people at the same time. To this day he meets people in the flesh!
The resurrection of Jesus precedes his exaltation. He was crucified, and He says it must be so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (each may use their own name instead of the word ‘everyone’). Here Jesus explains to Nicodemus that every human being, without exception, is already judged (condemned) by God for not believing in the name of Jesus. The only way to avoid this judgment is to accept the pardon of Jesus’ sacrificial death and decide to live with him.
Jesus came as the light into this dark world of fear, need and misery. He came to light up the darkness, to save those who want to be saved – but: “men loved darkness rather than light”. They wanted and want to remain and continue as before and therefore prefer the darkness of this world to the divine light, Jesus, who wants to bring us his invincible light.
“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (v. 20).
Light and darkness are two irreconcilable opposites. It’s either dark, darkness, or bright, light. You can’t have both together, not even with God. The apostle Paul writes in his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:16): “… Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting.”
This also applies in this world. Light or darkness – we must, and thanks to Jesus we can decide – for or against the light. Everyone is in demand, and every decision has consequences for eternity.
Light means life in eternity with God.
Darkness means living in eternal abandonment and torment in Satan’s presence.
What do you choose?