By Crijn Hendricksz. Volmarijn [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
24. Nicodemus visits Jesus at night: 3:1-21
Nicodemus was a teacher, a Pharisee, and part of the 70 member Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. The members of the Sanhedrin were responsible for all religious decisions. Because they were under Roman rule, they were responsible for the civil ones also. Joseph of Arimathea (19:38) and Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:34-39; 22:3) were also members of this group. The Sanhedrin put Jesus on trial (Luke 22:66).
We do not know why Nicodemus went to Jesus at night. Many commentators speculate that it was due to fear. We do know that nighttime always carries a sinister tone in the book of John (9:4; 11:10; 13:30; 19:39), and the theme of darkness versus light is prevalent throughout the book.
Jesus said we must be born a second time. The word "again" can also mean "from above." It was a birth by water (repentance referring to the ministry of John in Matthew 3:1-6) and the Holy Spirit. It meant that by believing in Jesus, one went through a spiritual transformation which takes a person out of the kingdom of darkness into the eternal kingdom of light where God ruled and reigned. It is invisible now but will someday be manifested on the earth (Matthew 6:10). The Holy Spirit would do this work of regeneration in a supernatural and invisible way.
As a teacher of Israel, Nicodemus should have understood this because the Old Testament prophets spoke of it (Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Joel 2:28-20; 1 Samuel 10:6; Jeremiah 31:33).
Jesus descended from heaven as the "ladder" between heaven and earth when He was born and when He ascended after His resurrection. He points back to Numbers 21:4-9 when Moses raised the bronze snake on a pole as a cure for Israel's punishment for disobedience (John 3:14). Jesus would be lifted up on the cross for people's sin (For more on this Old Testament passage, go HERE).
And John tells us that God's whole motivation for this was LOVE!
25. John the Baptist tells more about Jesus: 3:22-36
John 3 concludes with the final testimony of John the Baptist. His ministry with Jesus only overlapped for a short time, but he was the forerunner for Jesus in order to enhance the Messiah's message. He was the friend of the bridegroom and not the bridegroom. John was to decrease and Jesus was to increase. By believing in and obeying Jesus, one would have eternal life and escape the wrath of God.
REFLECTION As my mother lay dying in November of 2007, she yelled "Do Over Card!" over and over again. We knew she was reliving the many years of card games my parents would play with friends on Friday nights. My dad would often burst out loudly, as they played cards. He probably yelled out "Do Over" more than a few times during those lively games, and she remembered it in her semi-consciousness. What fond, fun-filled times they had with friends who had long passed away. It was poignant.
Listening at my mom's bedside, one of my relatives said, "Wish I could have a Do Over Card! Wouldn't it be great if we could do that in life? Just ask for a Do-Over Card and start fresh!" We all laughed painfully and knowingly. This was a relative who had dealt with alcoholism and drugs and had just come off a second divorce, but this relative spoke what many others in the room were thinking.
I knew about these "Do Over" desires because much of that month of being the primary caregiver for my mother prior to her death involved listening to bedside confessionals of relatives who were trapped in a sea of bad choices. In middle age, there were many regrets among them. This one relative just verbalized what we were all thinking: DO OVER CARD!
Jesus offers to us a DO OVER. We can be born-again of heaven a second time and our life can be transformed. Hallelujah!
(I am in tears right now. I realized this post will be posting on January 14th, my mother's birthday! God has a way of doing such neat things. My heart is so warmed.)
Do you need a Do Over Card? You have that opportunity in the message of John 3. Jesus said you can be born again and start a new life. Consider this today!
Memorize and meditate on John 3:16-18 today! If you do not know Christ, consider His free offer that is motivated by love. If you already know Him, rejoice in your salvation!
Thank You for the new and abundant life You offer us through Jesus Christ. May we receive and believe in Him. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.