Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. Pharisees were Jewish men dedicated to the law. They knew the law front and back. They then methodized the law to ensure the people would keep it. They had memorized scripture, the entire Torah. Pharisees were so arduous for the law that they forgot God in the mix. But Nicodemus seemed to have a bit of an open mind. The Pharisees recognized that there was something special about Jesus. They said they wanted to know more. They saw Jesus’ good works. But Nicodemus went to Him one night to ask Him some questions. Verses 1-3 read,
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Jesus didn’t say, “I’m the Son of God, the Messiah you’ve been waiting for.” That is the question Nicodemus was asking. But Nicodemus had all the head knowledge he needed in order to know that truth. He needed to seek the deeper truths of the Gospel to truly appreciate and comprehend the answer to the question He asked.
Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be born again. He had to be made new, and Nicodemus was flabbergasted. A person can’t re-enter his mother’s womb nor fight his way through the birthing canal again. Jesus’ answer made no sense to Nicodemus. Jesus expanded His answer. He moved it from the physical to the spiritual in verses 5-8.
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter 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 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus told Nicodemus the second birth was not a birth of water, but of the Spirit. He then furthered the picture of the Spirit by comparing Him to the wind. The wind is not constrained by the physical, we hear it, we see its effects but we don’t know where it has been or where it is going. It is like that with God, His purposes’ are His and are not inhibited by physical laws. Only God knows the fullness of His plans.
Nicodemus had the book knowledge but he couldn’t grasp what Jesus was saying to Him. Jesus had taken spiritual profound truth and put it in earthly terms. And Nicodemus wasn’t getting it. Jesus said, “If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?” (Verse ~12 The Message).
And Jesus continued telling Nicodemus how to be born again. Verses 14-15 read,
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Jesus here not only explains that He is the example and manifestation of God for people to follow but He eludes to His crucifixion, necessary for our salvation. He then continues telling Nicodemus the deep and lovely truth. Verses 16-18 read,
““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Jesus didn’t come to send everyone to Hell, He came so that we could be saved. Without Jesus we are doomed to Hell but because of Jesus we have the opportunity to have everlasting life with God. It only takes belief in who Jesus is. Jesus continues in verses 19-21.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Jesus judgment is unwelcomed by most because He is the light and He exposes our shortcomings, our failures. That is why the Pharisees hated Him. They thought they were perfect. They worked really hard to follow the law. Jesus showed them that they weren’t following God. They were following rules. They had put rules in God’s place. No one likes having their inadequacies exposed. Jesus invited us to come to God by giving up the sins and embracing the simple truth of pursuing God, by following Him.
It doesn’t say here what Nicodemus response was. But we know this, that by the end of Jesus’ ministry he was a disciple and believer. In John chapter 7 it is Nicodemus who defends Jesus among the Pharisees and using the law they so staunchly defended. In Chapter 19 Nicodemus helps Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus’ body.
It took Nicodemus a while but he did eventually become a believer. He asked the questions and kept looking for the truth. He didn’t shut out the truth because he didn’t like what the truth exposed about himself. Jesus wants us to ask questions. He wants us to find the answers and understand them at our core not just hear a truth and say we believe it superficially.
If you have questions, seek the answers. Open your mind and let the Light of Christ expose the truth to you. He didn’t come to send you to eternal damnation. He came so that you could be rescued from that penalty.