Key Text: John 3:1-21.
Nicodemus, was a ‘Chakham’ in Hebrew to the Jews and an official Rabbinic Pharisee to the Romans in the Temple, v1,10, 7:50, 19:39. His work is to give physical application to spiritual law from Moses, other Jews did the same, (Jn 2:20). But Nicodemus grew to believe and obey God’s law from Jesus. He can teach us how to approach the religious who do not see their need for cleansing as a pagan would understand it. From the first purge of the Temple a feud was developing between Jesus and the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus was a member and was breaking large barriers to meet and question him. He was exposed to plain truths with no compromise from Jesus. The Talmud mentions a Nakedimon as one of the disciples of Jesus and as one of the three richest Jews when Titus beseiged Jerusalem in 67-68, his family was reduced to severe poverty. We are not sure this is the same Nicodemus, but it might have been, in view of Jn.19:39.
When Jesus had the attention of the religious, he spoke in words which only the truly interested would want clarified. Jesus used generalisations, v3. All generalisations can be misunderstood, but they serve as “eye-brow lifters”, and defines who exactly is interested and who is not. See 1st John 3:9-10 for another “generalisation”.
Nicodemus was not asking about salvation or the Kingdom of God, he was making a statement about the origins and authority of Jesus. Could he be wanting Jesus to confirm it? Jesus went straight to the most important point, salvation, v5, being born again. Jesus could perceive exactly what a person was thinking and we can safely assume that Jesus did read the mind of Nicodemus and addressed the issue that Nicodemus was really concerned about. We may not be able to read people’s minds but we can read their face, lifestyle and words, we should address what we believe they are really concerned about. See Paul in the Areopagus, addressing them about the “unknown god”, it was something the people were concerned about and God has something to say about our concerns, Acts 19:22-23, 34. Anything from the “wind” to an “idol” can be linked with the manifold wisdom of God, it is our job to make it manifest, Eph. 3:8-13.
Jesus taught on being born again during spring (passover time), the seasonal winds would be strong at this time of year serving as a good illustration of being born of the Spirit. His emphasis on being newly born again pointed us towards being in a new state. Nicodemus first understood this to be impossible, but later realized that with God, all things are possible. Notice how water and Spirit are enjoined Tit 3:5, Mt 28:19 & 1st John 5:8. The only difficulty in understanding what baptism is, is that it excludes the unimmersed adult from the Kingdom. The birth is known both as spiritual (Spirit) and physical (water) which has a radical eternal result, with no optional results. Even in the old law the heart was to be circumcised, Dt 10:16, Jer 4:4, defining a spiritual change. In the new law Jesus was establishing, we find circumcision to have an analogy in baptism, Col. 2:11-12. Jesus wanted Nicodemus to know God’s Spirit is active in baptism.
The implications of our new birth demands we live more spiritually after being re-born, Rm 12:1 2. God demands we actively trust Him to take away the bad and replace it with good. If we believe He can do it, we will prayerfully ask Him. God is a gentleman, He will not force us to accept what we don’t really want. Being born again is a phrase which may be misunderstood by religious people today, but we should not refrain from using it, because it is the way Jesus explained our access into His Kingdom. Baptism is the God appointed place to be born again, Ac 2:38, 22:16 & 1st Peter 3:21.