John’s Gospel Chapter 3
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
Subject- NICODEMUS AND HIS CONVERSATION WITH THE LORD JESUS.
Study Portion - Chapter 3. 1-21.
Note three interesting conversations in the Gospel of John involving -
3. 1-21. A man with a religious problem and a member of the Sanhedrin.
4. 1-30. A woman with a moral problem - an outcast and despised Samaritan.
8. 23-58. A people with a racial problem - the unbelieving Jews. Observe first -
He was- SINCERE
At the passover feast 'many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did', 2. 23. Was this only an emotional reaction on their part, as they beheld the wonder of His works? for 'Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man', vv. 24, 25 (R.S.V.); 'but' there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews', whom Jesus could trust, he was sincere in his desire to learn. Perhaps he was one of those who had seen the miracles and wished to know more. What he was about to learn was the greatest miracle of all - so he came -
We note that he was -
Cautious. He came by night, perhaps not wishing to identify himself with the Saviour openly until he was personally convinced. There was nothing cowardly in this, for there could be no better time to discuss such weighty problems, than the quiet stillness of a starry night, perhaps alone with Jesus upon the open roof of an eastern house.
Courteous. 'Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God'. This was a title of respect, for Nicodemus himself was a teacher of Israel, perhaps the most well-known in Jerusalem.
Courageous. To recognize and declare that the Lord Jesus 'had come from God' was indeed a brave confession to make.
Complimentary. 'No man can do the miracles that thou doest except God be with him'.
Nicodemus had reached the right conclusion in his thinking, but he must realize that his essential need was not a teacher, even of the highest standard, but a Saviour and Redeemer, 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh'.
The Saviour had noticed this when He said 'marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again', v. 7.
Observe the questions of surprise - How can a man be born when he is old?, v. 4. How can these things be?, v. 9.
He was- PRECISE
Nicodemus had not asked a single question, yet 'Jesus answered'. He knew what was in man and anticipated the difficulties in the mind of His inquirer - there was no preamble.
The lesson of regeneration or new birth was not an easy one, especially to an intellectual teacher like Nicodemus. We are struck with the patient perseverance of the Master.
Observe the change from the general to the particular.
Except a man . . ., v. 3.
How can a man . . ., v. 4.
Except a man . . ., v. 5.
That which is born . . ., v. 6.
Then in v. 7, Ye must be born again.
Art thou a ruler in Israel . . ., v. 10.
We speak that we do know, v. 11.
Of regeneration is expressed by -
ILLUSTRATION AND METAPHORICAL REFERENCE
Water, v. 5. Born of water - what did Jesus imply by this reference to water? More than one interpretation has been offered, but whichever is adopted the significance must surely be the same, that of inward cleansing.
Nicodemus had probably witnessed John the Baptist baptizing with water to repentance and proclaiming the coming of another who would baptize in the Spirit; thus indicating the need for repentance and regeneration.
Nicodemus would also be familiar with the cleansings of tabernacle days and the laver for the cleansing of the priests. The Lord Jesus told His disciples that they were clean through the Word which He had spoken unto them, 15. 3.
Read and study the following verses which link cleansing with the Word -
Ps. 119. 9. 'Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word'.
Eph. 5. 26. 'That he might cleanse and sanctify it (the Church) with the washing of water by the word'.
Titus 3.5. 'Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost'.
1 Pet. 1. 23. 'Being born again ... by the word of God'.
James 1.18. 'Of his own will begat he us, with the word of truth.'
Wind, v. 8. The blowing of the wind remains a mystery, blowing where it listeth, in its unpredictable sovereignty, and though unseen producing visible effects.
Such is the working of the Spirit in regeneration. The Word of God and the Spirit of God are the two essentials for the new birth.
DEMONSTRATION AND HISTORICAL INCIDENT
Verses 13, 14. 'And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life'.
New birth can only take place through the incarnation and redemption, through His birth and His death. It is for 'who¬soever believeth' and not for 'whosoever understandeth'.
REVELATION AND UNIVERSAL STATEMENT
Verse 16. 'God so loved the world, that he gave . . .' Nicodemus was now to learn the supreme lesson of God's universal love; not only for those within the narrow confines of Judaism, but for all. Here are some of the salient features in the verse -
The Divine Love - God . . . loved.
The Degree of Love - So . . . loved.
The Descent of Love - The world of men, not angels. Love climbs the heights and plumbs the depths.
The Display of Love - He gave His only begotten Son.
The Demands of Love - Whosoever believeth on Him. God demands your trust.
The Dynamic of Love - Should not perish but have everlasting life. In w. 14-21 there is –
LOVE, LIFE and LIGHT
Did Nicodemus learn the lesson? Was he born anew as a result of this interview? We must look to two other references in the Gospel for the answer to these questions.
DEFENCE AND WITNESS chapter 7. 45-53
On the return of the officers who had been sent by the Sanhedrin to arrest the Saviour, the voice of Nicodemus was heard in defence of justice - 'Doth our law judge a man before it hear him and know what he doeth?'. They (his fellow Pharisees) answered with scorn and sarcasm 'Art thou also of Galilee?'.
DEVOTION AND WORSHIP chapter 19. 38-42
Here is an act of devotion and worship. When others fled, this man brought his gifts of aloes, myrrh and spices, about an hundred pound weight and with another secret disciple placed the precious body of the Saviour in the garden tomb. Remember 'Heroes are made in crises'.