Title: A SECRET MEETING BY NIGHT
Divine appointments have a way of changing your life. Their impact has profound effects. Imagine you having a private audience with Jesus and He cuts right through the chitchat and gets the issue of your heart. Such was Nicodemus and famous discourse with the Master Teacher about the rebirth.
The fact that Jesus performed miracles was beyond dispute. To want to get to who He was and by what power He did them was a desire of many. The everyday person could face Jesus and ask Him such questions. But for a Pharisee, this purposed high risk. But before Nicodemus could put forth any questions, Jesus spoke to his real need. Let’s see how he handled it. Read Text.
To get some insight into the nature of this divine appointment, we need some knowledge about who Nicodemus was. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling group of the Jews (like our Senate). But according to verse 10, where Jesus calls him “teacher of Israel,” the word Jesus used for teacher is one that indicates “master teacher.” In other words, he was one who should know these things and the spiritual depth to which Jesus spoke.
1. What significance do you find behind the fact that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night? (He wanted a one-on-one appointment with Jesus and was already entertaining the thought that Jesus might be genuine; but he didn’t want to risk the exposure of a daytime meeting.) What risk was there for Nicodemus to be seen alone with Jesus? (He could be viewed as a disciple of Jesus or a conspirator with Him.)
2. What was the spirituality of the typical Pharisee like? (They did their religion so as to be seen pious to others; long prayers, ashes smeared on their face, broad phylacteries on their forehead, public display of their giving.) Matt. 6:1-7 What gives you an indication that Nicodemus might be different? (He came to Jesus to see for himself Jesus’ claims, and he believed Jesus did the things he did because God was with Him. 3:2)
3. Why would Jesus’ saying about the rebirth catch a Pharisee off guard? (They thought they were already a part of the Kingdom because of their birth, and because of their loyalty to the Pharisaic traditions.)
4. Is there any room for entrance into Heaven for racial privilege or punctual observance of religious practices according to Jn. 3:3, 5? What does it mean to be born again? (God acts supernaturally to make us His children.) Jn. 1:12-13; 1 Jn. 2:29; 5:1 What does it mean to be born of water and Spirit? (According to Scripture, baptism and the gift of the Spirit come together.) Acts 2:38-39; 19:1-5; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Jn 5:6-8
5. Is there any room for omitting baptism from your conversion experience to this passage or any other? Mk. 16:16; Acts 10:44-48; 1 Pet. 3:21
Comment: As to whether baptism is important for us to do, don’t make a subjective decision based upon whether you want to submit to it or not. Neither base it upon what various people teach. Base it upon what the Word teaches. On that note, in the nutshell, ALL conversion stories recorded in the book of Acts (the story of the first Christians that were converted after Christ), every one of them were baptized. Some received the Holy Spirit prior to it, others when they were baptized…but every one of them without exception submitted to baptism the same day they believed. Nothing that takes place during baptism is a “work” for our own salvation; everything done in it is a work of God. All we have to do is submit to it by faith.
Questions to ponder: Did Jesus find it necessary to be baptized? Matt. 3:14-15 Did Jesus baptize others? Jn. 3:22
6. Nicodemus was very well trained in theological things as a Pharisee, but did he grasp what Jesus meant here? What does it take to understand the spiritual things of God? (The Holy Spirit opening your mind to the meaning of Jesus’ words…the working of the Spirit in your heart.) See 3:11-12. Ezek. 36:25-27 Can we be caught in the same trap if we approach the Bible for knowledge only and not for spiritual insight that can change our lives?
7. The transition from verse 12 to verse 13 is Jesus’ brilliant way of reaching the heart of His listener. Nicodemus is a serious student of Law, and acutely aware of speaking by an authority when bringing up something controversial. Jesus, in yet another deep spiritual metaphor, explains by what authority He speaks. What is verse 3:13 all about? (The One who inaugurates the Kingdom of Heaven is the same One who came down from Heaven…the Son of God.) Dan. 7:13
8. Why would Jesus choose a serpent on a stick as a comparison of Himself? 3:14-15 (During the wilderness wandering, rebellion against Moses as their divinely-appointed leader sprang up. God punished the rebellion with poisonous snakes. God instructed Moses to construct a bronze serpent on a pole and raise it up. All who looked upon it were saved. Num. 21:9 So it is with Christ – those who look to Christ, who was lifted up on the cross, will also be saved. On the cross, Jesus took away our sin, the poison of spiritual death.)
9. Can you think of any better way to phrase “so loved” in 3:16? When did you discover God loves you? How long did it take from that discovery before you chose to accept Jesus as your Savior?
10. What is the “perish” in reference to in verse 16? Rev. 20:12-15
11. According to verse 17, what was Jesus’ purpose in His first coming? (To save those who believe in Him.) What is His purpose in His Second Coming? (Judgement) Rev. 19:11-21
12. How is it that Christians bypass the judgment according to 3:18? (Lost sinners stand condemned already because they don’t have the belief that puts their trust in Jesus. Christians bypass the Judgment because Jesus is their Savior; Christians come before Jesus for rewards (crown) instead of judgment.) Jn. 5:24-26; 2 Cor. 5:10 Who is the Judgment for? 2 Pet. 3:7
13. According to the following verses, what is our crown or reward? 1 Thess. 2:19; 2 Tim. 4:8; Ja. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4 What strong admonition do you find in Rev. 2:10 & 3:11 about your crown?
14. Why do you think light and judgment are compared together in 3:19? (Light exposes the deed; the consequences of your deeds are already set; all there is left is the final sentencing. Rev. 21:8, 27; 22:15)
15. According to verse 20, why do the wicked avoid the light/judgment? (Their deeds are exposed by it, thus their guilt is upon them; they don’t want to be told they are sinners and of the consequences.)
16. Verse 3:21 says those that practice the truth don’t avoid the light, yet Christians sin too. So why don’t we avoid the light, because those could be exposed too? (The difference is that those who are under grace have their sins already forgiven, and what is forgiven is forgotten, so there is nothing for Satan to accuse us of.) Heb. 10:15-22
From this point on in the chapter, Nicodemus fades and is not mentioned in any more conversation with Jesus. We are left to wonder whether Jesus’ admonition to be born again produced any fruit in the heart of Nicodemus. Read the following passages and come to your own conclusion. Jn. 7:40-53; 19:38-41