A Visitor in the Night {John 3}

2:22 AM

By Lisa Moore

Nicodemus was a Pharisee who belonged to the exclusive Jewish ruling council known as the Sanhedrin.  The Sanhedrin was the most prominent religious group in Israel who ruled the religious life of the Jewish people.  Now as a Pharisee, Nicodemus' focus was strictly on obeying all of the traditions and laws of the Old Testament.  He was educated, wealthy, and was a highly respected teacher.  He lived a life of privilege and enjoyed the esteem given to him by the people.  And in John chapter 3,  we find him risking everything by searching through the night for Jesus the man from Galilee.   The same man his fellow Pharisees were plotting to kill.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus warned of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees which blinded them from seeing their need for repentance and for a Savior.  In Matthew 23:13-33, eight times Jesus pronounces woes against the Pharisees and calls them hypocrites, fools, and serpents. Jesus compares them to whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful but inside are filled with dead man's bones and all uncleanness. They cared only about the outward appearance of righteousness.  They saw Jesus not as their Messiah, but as a threat to everything they held dear.  But Nicodemus was different.  He acknowledges Jesus as a teacher sent by God, and comes to Him seeking the truth.  

Jesus begins by telling Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  This of course throughly confuses Nicodemus who asks, "How can a man be born when he is old?  He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born can he?"  Jesus answers, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Sprit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Sprit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again'."  (vs. 4-7)  I can just imagine the wheels spinning in the mind of Nicodemus.  He knew he observed all of the laws of cleanliness and piety, yet Jesus told him that it wasn't enough to be physically clean, (water isn't enough for true purification).  A person's nature also needs to be cleansed, or sanctified, by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  But what did Jesus mean about being "born again"?  I love this explanation...

"The new birth is an instantaneous spiritual experience which occurs when the Holy Spirit leads a person to understand that Jesus Christ died on the Cross to provide forgiveness for their sins.  We are born again the moment we accept that Jesus Christ is the only One who can redeem us and we confess Him as our Savior and Lord." ....(Dr. Charles Stanley)

Jesus goes on to explain, "No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.  As Moses lifted up the servant in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  (vs. 13-16)  Numbers 21 tells the story of the people of Israel becoming impatient with God and speaking against Him and Moses.  In return, God sent poisonous serpents as a judgement.  Many died before the people finally repented. God told Moses to set a serpent on a staff so that everyone who looked upon it would live.  In the same way, those who face death can look upon the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and receive eternal life.  An eternal life paid for with His precious blood.

This is the beautiful truth Nicodemus not only received, but believed.  We know this because Nicodemus is mentioned two more times in the book of John.  In 7:50-52, we find him arguing in Jesus' defense, and in 19:39-42 we find him boldly beside Joseph of Arimathea  preparing the body of Jesus for burial.  Nicodemus brings a mixture myrrh and aloes.  Spices which weighed about a hundred pounds, the amount usually reserved to bury a great king.  

The transformation of Nicodemus is a beautiful example of God's redeeming love.  Through his story we learn that when we come to Jesus with a heart that seeks the truth, day or night Jesus is there.  We learn that only through receiving Jesus as our Savior can salvation be found, and we learn that no matter how much we give,  it could never compare with the greatest gift Jesus gave by laying down His life for all.

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