: John 3 vs 1 - 8
“1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ 3 Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
You know the old proverb, “give a dog and bad name and hang him”, well maybe not since most often all we hear is simply “give a dog a bad name!” usually though that’s enough to make the point. If someone has a bad reputation, deserved or not, it’s very difficult to shake it off. The proverb seeks to be fair to those who unjustly have a bad reputation.
We have that kind of view of the Pharisees and to be honest, there is not much evidence in the gospels that it wasn’t deserved. Time and time again they clashed with Jesus and finally they were prominent among those who plotted his arrest and execution. There were, however, exceptions and today we’ve read of one, yes, an open minded Pharisee, a man in whom the Spirit of God was at work. He came to Jesus at night probably so that he would not be recognised, but prepared to admit that Jesus was a teacher sent by God. A good, but a safe admission and one that many people could and do make even today.
Try as we might though, we can’t keep Jesus at arm’s length or manage his claims on us by admitting that he was a good man or a great teacher. We can sit on the fence with statements like that but with Nicodemus Jesus would have none of it. Whatever question was brewing in Nic’s mind Jesus cut straight to the chase. No-one can see the Kingdom of God, not even you Nicodemus, for all your standing, all your knowledge and all your piety, unless you are born again. You see, it’s not a bit of a tweak here or there, a bit more knowledge or a bit of a spiritual spruce up we need, like Nicodemus we need to be born again if we are to have any hope of entering the kingdom of God. And by the way, that’s not me saying it or just my take on it, that’s exactly what Jesus said to Nicodemus who was on the face of it, a good man, a pillar of the faith and a leader of Israel. Life begins with birth, and new life, with spiritual re-birth or being born from above. We are all born of our parents but for this new life, this new start it is the Spirit of God who gives us birth.
Nicodemus left without any clear evidence that he came to trust in Jesus rather than his old time religion which was really a kind of self righteousness and that’s how it would have been except for this, in John chapter 7 there is mention that Nicodemus spoke in Jesus’ defence and incurred the rebuke of his colleagues. Later still, when Jesus was crucified it was Nicodemus who accompanied Joseph of Arimathea when they took Jesus body dressed it for burial and laid him in the tomb. Seems he came though at last and was born of the Spirit. In Jesus death was Nicodemus’ birth. How do you see it?