Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church This I Believe Series Lesson 3: Born Again To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM
Incognito John 3:1-2, Matthew 7:7-11, John 14:6-7
As we look into today’s study we see Nicodemus, a member of the prestigious Jewish ruling council (Sanhedrin) who sees Jesus at night. Nicodemus is only mentioned three times in the Bible, but his short story reveals the process of being “Born Again” —the very essence of salvation, which is what Jesus came for (“to seek and to save the lost” Luke 19:10).
1.) The first thing we learn about Nicodemus is he came to see Jesus at night by himself. We know that there was no one else because the recorded reveals it. Nicodemus likely told John the story later so that he could include it in his gospel. Nicodemus met with Jesus incognito (under cover) due to the immense peer pressure he faced from his fellow Pharisees.
A Pharisee was one of four major schools of thought in Judaism (Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots) in the first century. The word “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “separate.” They strictly followed the Torah (Laws of Moses), as well as their own oral traditions. These men were made up of scholars, layman and scribes, and were highly regarded by the Jewish community. They were often harshly criticized by Jesus for their hypocrisy. He confronted them on caring more about traditions than the Laws of God and following rules of religion while neglecting the most important things like love and mercy. The Pharisees hated Jesus so much that they spent much of their time plotting to kill Him. Eventually they would succeed.
Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council as well (The Sanhedrin). The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in Israel. The “Supreme Court” of the Sanhedrin’s was referred to as the Great Sanhedrin and was located in Jerusalem. Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, but a member of the Great Sanhedrin. This would be similar today to a prominent religious leader who also is a United States Senator.
Regardless of the pressure Nicodemus felt to be “politically and religiously correct” and hold onto his popularity, he made an appointment with Jesus “for no one could perform the signs” He was doing if God were not with Him. Although he was a coward among his peers, he went to Jesus for an answer. Herein lies the first step of a sinner to salvation: Let nothing or no one keep you from seeking Jesus: “Ask, seek, and knock” (Matthew 7:7-11) until you get His answer. He alone declares that He has it (John 14:6).
Born Again John 3:3-21, Numbers 21:4-9, Isaiah 1:2,18-20
2.) The second thing we learn from Nicodemus’ is his honest encounter with the truth (Jesus). Nicodemus began by trying to flatter Jesus, but Jesus cut to the question that Nicodemus really came for: “Is there a Heaven and how do I get there?” Isn’t that honestly the question of every man and woman? Jesus simply said “you must be born again”. Nicodemus doesn’t try to impress Jesus ever again. He forgets his status and humbles himself right into asking childish questions (how can you be born when you are old?”). He wants so badly to understand that he asks again (“how can this be?”). So Jesus painted a picture that a Pharisee could understand (Jesus will always bring a truth seeker to the understanding of it): Jesus illustrated Himself from the Torah in Numbers 21:4-9. What Jesus essentially told Nicodemus by referencing that story was that A.) he and his people had sinned against God B.) the Lord rightly sent a curse (snakes) called death. C.) Those who repent are provided with a remedy D.) The remedy was (and will be) lifted up on a pole (a bronze snake/ Jesus Christ): and anyone who looks upon that remedy will live. Jesus illustrated Himself as that remedy- “everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him”. All are born of water (the amniotic sack) however; only Jesus can make one born again of the Spirit for He alone has gone into Heaven. God so loved the world that He wrapped Himself in human flesh and came to save it. Those who reject Him will be condemned. For they refuse to be “born again!” The Lord desires to meet with us and “reason together”, but if we resist and rebel we will be devoured (Isaiah 1:2, 18-20).
New John 7:45-52, John 19:38-42, 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, 5:17-21
3.) The last thing we see in Nicodemus is his changing. It is progressive as it is in all believers. We see the beginning of that change in John 7:50-51 when he questions his peers regarding their hate for Jesus. “Are you from Galilee too?”, they chided, insinuating that Jesus, the Galilean, had converted him. Actually , He had! Although it is true that the scripture makes no mention of the messiah coming from Galilee, Jesus does fulfill over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament if they had bothered to look! Is anyone looking now?
We finally see Nicodemus boldly coming out as a follower of Christ , along with Joseph of Arimathea after Christ was raised up and crucified. Surely he recalled Jesus’ late-night talk with him about the snake on the pole. Nicodemus paid a high price for the 75lbs of burial spices, but a bigger price at the loss of his standing with his peers, but his “veil was taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18) and he was free in the Spirit-”Born Again!” He was a “New Creation” and although we never hear of Nicodemus in the Bible again we know his story. He like all of us who become “born again” become those who reconcile others to Christ —and then we go to be with Him…forevermore!