One of the early encounters of Jesus occurred with Nicodemus. This encounter with a religious elite is unsurpassed in the Bible.
Nicodemus who is a member of the Sanhedrin (made up only of 70 members) and a Pharisee. The Pharisees are known for their knowledge of Jewish laws.
Yet he comes to Jesus at night. Why? To give advice? Or was something in his life missing? Does he visit at night to escape detection, or is he anxious that he can’t wait until morning? For whatever reason, Nicodemus respects Jesus – calls him Rabbi or teacher.
Nicodemus opens up about the miracles of Jesus but our Lord sees beyond the question. Jesus brushes aside the nice talk and gets to the point . . . you must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. All the credentials of this religious ruler are ignored. All that Jesus is concerned with is his soul. Is it a renewed soul? Born again of God’s Spirit? Is it made new by God?
Now why would Jesus use this terminology with a religious ruler? Jesus doesn’t talk about renewal through following the laws. He talks about a spiritual awakening, a rebirth infused by the Spirit of God.
Nicodemus does not understand. Jesus clarifies the difference between flesh and spirit. Jesus reminds him respectfully of his spiritual ignorance. You can be religious and not know God . . . religious but not saved.
All that God requires for salvation is to believe with a heart that is repentant. And Jesus declares the Gospel in John 3:16 – “For God so loved . . .”
Right after Christ’s suffered on the cross, we actually find Nicodemus with John of Arimathea burying our Lord in a tomb. John 19:39-40. The man who once approached Jesus at night, now openly identifies with the Savior while the rest of the disciples are in hiding. Was Nicodemus born again? His actions answer that question. He broke with tradition that day during the Passover feast. He became ceremonially unclean by touching a dead man’s body. He could not participate in that Passover Feast. He had learned the lesson taught to him by the Savior – All God requires is to believe in full repentance.
Nicodemus understood “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Here are some observations taken from this encounter:
- Self-righteousness can easily be embedded in moral respectability. The religious have a high code of ethic but it is centered on what one can do instead of what God can do. There is a smug sense of superiority. To them salvation is all about good works. There’s very little grace or no grace involved in their religion.
- Religious elite are still open to signs of miraculous authority.
- Such people are also impressed by the reality of a supernatural life. Share to them the effects of a sincere walk with God . . . the blessings that come with it. People who are deeply religious may actually lack a spiritual and supernatural life. Why? To them it is all about following rules which can be rigid and cold.
- Personal testimony is intriguing. When you can testify of God’s personal work in your life, these people listen.
- Reference to scripture is impressive to them. It shows your knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. Religious people who are nominally committed to the written Word and are knowledgeable of Bible truth. Use it to a great advantage.
- Jesus should be the standard of righteousness. Compared to Christ, we all fall short. Only Jesus, therefore, can save us.
- When Christ is mentioned – lifted up – we are made to face the reason for his death. All other efforts towards salvation pales and fails in comparison to what Christ did.
- Commitment to obey the truth is the only way to further understanding of God’s Word.