Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 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.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Evangelistic Service - Come and see!
People were starting to believe in Jesus because of the signs that He did but He did not them because their expectations of the Messiah were different than the reality. He knew that they wanted a revolutionary leader to overthrow the Romans, a leader like in the time of the Maccabees when they revolted and had some victories about 200 years before. But Jesus would not commit to such an endeavour for His Kingdom on earth was not now, He was instead declaring the Kingdom of Heaven, a spiritual Kingdom where Christ rules in our hearts. Jesus knew what was in their hearts just as He knew Nathanael’s heart that he was a man of integrity.
Well, though He did not give a physical sign in the Temple of His power to do these things He did perform signs in Jerusalem, so much so, that many came to faith in Him however, with that said, He did not allow them to dictate where He was going or what He was going to do. Why? Because He knew all of them just as He knew Nathanael and knew that He was a true Israelite He also knew the hearts of those who were about Him. He knew that they wanted a revolutionary leader to overthrow the Romans, a leader like in the time of the Maccabees when they revolted and had some victories in the time between the Old and New Testament. But Jesus would not commit to such an endeavour for His Kingdom on earth was not now, He was instead declaring the Kingdom of Heaven, a spiritual Kingdom where Christ rules in our hearts. it is an indictment on the hearts of people that because Jesus knew what they are like that He could not trust them. Indeed we do not really know the depths of our own hearts:
He knows our hearts too and, in fact, we do not really know the depths of our own hearts:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
But this same Jesus does know what is in each of our hearts.
NKJV9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
We do not know it but Jesus does for it is bare and open to Him.
Into this story a man named Nicodemus approached him, coming to Him at night no doubt out of fear of being associated with Him for He was one of the Pharisees. He had heard first-hand reports of the signs that Jesus was doing. We are not given a glimpse into the heart of Nicodemus here but I think he came out of sincerity to find out whether Jesus was all He cracked up to be. He was an enquirer trying to establish the facts and the truth and treated Jesus with respect calling him ‘Rabbi’ which is what Nicodemus was, a teacher of God.
Straight away Jesus gets to the point: You must be born again. Now if you had never heard of this we would have the same response as Nicodemus: what? born again…how is that possible? I cannot be reborn as a baby in some strange form of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a film in which Brad Pitt reverses in ageing.
Jesus then makes clear He is not talking about a physical rebirth but of a spiritual one. We are all born physically into this world but we must also be born spiritually otherwise life will have all been for nought. Let me put it another way: Perhaps we are given to entertainment and pleasure or given to work. Solomon a great King of the past wrote that all is vanity, emptiness unless God is acknowledged and worshipped. There is no point to anything if God is not put in His proper place, that is, at the centre of our lives.
Perhaps we are given to entertainment or given to work. Solomon a great King of the past wrote that all is vanity, emptiness unless God is acknowledged and worshipped. There is no point to anything if God is not put in His proper place.
Nevertheless Nicodemus seems flummoxed by this and Jesus berates him as one who should already know for he is a leader of the Jews and a supposedly spiritual one. It seems that many respect Jesus or at least say they do but are not careful to examine His claims on their lives but Nicodemus, despite this criticism was not proud, he wanted to know more.
Jesus makes sure that Nicodemus understood that He is not from the earth in the sense of an ordinary human being but had come down from Heaven. You leaders, he said to Nicodemus, don’t listen, you refuse our testimony. Who is the ‘our’ and ‘we’ here in this passage? Jesus is speaking of Himself and His Father, that is, God making Himself God. No wonder it is hard for earthlings to understand heavenly things.
Jesus makes sure that Nicodemus understands that He is not from the earth in the sense of an ordinary human being but had come down from Heaven. And then addressing all the leaders of the Jews by saying ‘you’ plural by saying ‘We’ also plural indicating that Jesus and the Father and are One that despite revealing heavenly things they do not received their testimony.
And Jesus makes it clear that He is God here by saying that He not only came down from Heaven but was also still in Heaven revealing His omnipresence, that fact that He is everywhere.
Then Jesus goes on to say: As Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness so will I be lifted up. We find a story in the Old Testament in . There we find that in the desert a load of snakes came into the camp of the Israelites because of their rebellion and complaining against God - there didn’t seem any way of escape - I’ve not seen the film ‘Snakes on a plane’ but I do not need much imagination to know there is nowhere to go to avoid them. Well, this was how it was; they were all getting bitten. So, God told Moses to put a bronze snake on a pole that anyone who had been bitten when they looked at it would be healed and he did this and the people were made well.
The point was that Jesus was saying I will be put on a pole too, in this case a wooden one that anyone who looks on Him, anyone who trusts that what Jesus did on the cross was for them, they, too, would be healed, they will know peace with God because they had been forgiven their sins. Of course, if any of the Israelites did not look at the snake on a pole then they were not healed and died excruciatingly from the snake bites which begs the questions, why wouldn’t they look?
Perhaps they thought they could get well on their own, they had their own remedies, ridiculous, right? Which then begs the question why people will not trust Jesus. Perhaps they think they can get through life on their own and go to Heaven anyway, if they believe there is one. Or maybe they do not realise how dire their situation actually is. Well, that is what we are going to look at next.
God’s love is not; well, that’s OK; never mind; doesn’t matter; I forgive you. If only, right? But whilst God is absolutely love He is also absolutely holy, absolutely righteous, absolutely just, absolutely good and these attributes of God means that there is a price to be paid for being in rebellion against His Godship, His Lordship, His Kingship. God cannot bear to even look at sin it is so abhorrent to Him. This reveals how utterly different He is to us and His standards so contrary to ours. God, as our Creator, has a right to expect that those He created should obey Him.
He, though, is not a tyrant, His rules are not overbearing, His ways for us are for our best. But every single one of us have said to God: No! I want to do it my way, just like the song that Frank Sinatra sang and perhaps why it is so popular. If there was someone who lived a righteous life without any rebellion against God, and the bible calls this sin, if someone had lived without sin then there would be no need for a solution to our problem, we really can make it on our own but this has never happened and never will.
Sin separates us from God and this barrier is so wide that the solution to this problem is harder than the the Israeli-Palestinian problem. In fact, there is no solution that we can propose from our side to reconcile our differences. We are completely helpless. Some, of course, think they can make it on their own, whether it is doing good or doing religious things but this makes completely no difference to their state of affairs with God.
The only One with a solution is God, the very One we have offended, what He really should do is simply wipe us off the face of the planet. However, He is love. How can His love be satisfied? And how can His justice be satisfied? The solution was to send His own Son to live a sinless life, as a human, and to pay the ultimate price for our sin, which is death. The wages of sin is death, the bible says. Death first came into the world because of sin. But this is not just a death in the sense that which happens to all of us.
The death that matters most is that which is spiritual. Jesus died a cruel unjust death suffering one of the greatest torment devices ever made; crucifixion, and that only after he had been whipped within an inch of His life and with a crown of thorns dug into His head. And you’d think that was punishment enough.
But no. He who had never for all eternity ever been separated from His Father suddenly had His Father turn His back on Him and so Jesus died spiritually. And we have those agonising words from the cross screamed through the darkness that had descended: My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?
It is our fault that this happened. It is your fault this happened. It is my fault this happened.
There was no other solution to this problem of God’s justice and love to be appeased. It was absolutely necessary. If we will only trust that Jesus has done it all for us, if only we would look on Him like those Israelites in the desert looking at the snake on a pole, we would be healed, we would be forgiven, we would be reconciled again to God to that state of perfection where nothing can get in the way of that relationship. We are called to believe on the Lord Jesus, that He and He alone has the solution and then we will not perish but have everlasting life. God wants everyone, that is, YOU and me to come back to Him and be saved.
But this offer is only available whilst we live. And this offer is the only one available. The problem with rejecting this solution is that we will have to pay the penalty in full ourselves for our rebellion against a holy and just God - not for our sins but for the rejection of the solution, Jesus Himself. It seems ridiculous to reject such an offer which is given freely - the one condition is that we will follow Jesus the rest of our lives and why wouldn’t we if He has been so generous to us - our lives are His simply in thankfulness.
But if we were to reject this offer then we are counting ourselves worthy of being punished, we are condemned already, Heaven will never be our home but a lake of fire in conscious torment forever and ever and ever and ever. It was bad enough we lived in rebellion against God, maybe even unknowingly, but now that God sent His own Son to suffer so horrifically so that we could come back to Him and we still reject God then there is no judgement horrific enough for us to suffer as a consequence. Save yourself! Trust Jesus or die!
Most people will reject this offer, crazy as that is. Maybe they think it is too good to be true, but this is one that must be taken up. People will reject it because they like life the way it is, they love doing life their way. Such foolishness!
Let’s hear those words we heard read to us from the Bible again:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Jesus rose from the dead revealing that He had the victory over sin and death and that He really does have the power to forgive us and reconcile us to God. This resurrection has overwhelming evidence that this actually happened is agreed among most scholars. Our faith stands or falls on this one event in history. Jesus is alive today, right now, and ready to receive you if you will receive Him. Each of us are called to repent, to turn around, to believe, that is to trust, and to be baptised, showing we are committed to obey Him.
Where do you stand today? Have you trusted Jesus with your life?
Yes? Then you already have been forgiven, already have eternal life, already been reconciled to God.
No? Then you are still condemned, still rejected, still without hope.
Will you believe in Jesus? Will you receive Him? Will you ask Him to take control of your life?
I am going to pray. We are going to pray together out loud. A prayer of asking Jesus into our lives. Perhaps you will pray a prayer like this for the very first time. Maybe it is a prayer prayed many times as a prayer of re-dedication to the Saviour. But repeat after me the words I pray to God and mean them from the bottom of your heart and today Jesus will be your Saviour as He has been mine all these years.
Let us stand together to pray:
Lord Jesus, the only way I can come to God is through You, and I have heard today that you came for me, that you paid the price for my rebellion and sin so that I did not have to. Thank you. Come into my life to be my Saviour. Come into my life to be my Lord. Be in control of this life you have given to me. And I will seek to follow You all the days of my life. Save me from my sins. Save me from eternal punishment. And forgive me. And give me eternal life because of the great love you have shown to me. Let the wind of Your Spirit move in me. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Now, if you have prayed that kind of prayer for the very first time you must speak to me about it before you leave today that I may congratulate you on coming into the family of God. Is there anyone here who will raise their hand and say I asked Jesus into my life for the first time today? Let me speak with you for I have some advice about the next stage of the new life that has started in you.
For all of you who call yourself Christian: what kind of life are you living? Is it in thankfulness to Jesus or in ungrateful rebellion. Come back today to our Saviour who loves you so exceedingly and lay your life down:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
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Exported from Logos Bible Software, 09:07 23 July 2017.