Who is Nicodemus?  John 3:1-15

June 21, 2017

Who is Nicodemus?  John 3:1-15

Nicodemus was a leader and a member of Jewish ruling council, He appears 3 times in the Bible; John chapter 3, 7 and 19. Today let us look at 1, his personality outward vs inward.  2. His Seeking Salvation.

1. A.  Personality Outward

He was rather old, elderly, Rabi, a teacher in Jewish religion,  a member of the Jewish ruling council – called Sanhedrin. The highest organization like a US Congress and Supreme Court together.  He was like a congress man, very wise and clever, experienced, respected by many for a long time.  This great man came to Jesus and asked Him,

“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.”

You see here Nicodemus is rather humble and respectful to Jesus who was a much younger man.  He sounds like he is almost believing in Jesus… but look, he saw many miracles, signs, so he believed.  Eye witness is rather important in his belief.  Miracles drawn him to Jesus.

Nicodemus had all power, status, experience, respect, wise, but still humble.  He had a head knowledge – being a Phrisee he knew the Bible, Old Testament, very well.  He was a leader and teacher and Rabi.  His knowledge was A+  But he lacked one thing…that was spiritual insight- inside himself. He did not understand anyof what Jesus mentioned to him.  Jesus’ teaching here we will look at them today, was not comprehending to Nic.

1.B. Personality Inward - spiritual level

When Jesus said,

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Nicodemus did not understand Jesus at all…“what in a world Is Jesus talking about? No clues????”

Jesus is talking about a regeneration – need to be born again in order to be saved.  We now know His message because we hear this every so often at the church.  But for Nicodemus it was the very first time.  Jesus explained about the Spirit and the wind would puzzle him even more.   He probably went home and thought it over and over again, trying to understand the true meaning of what Jesus said.  Later Nicodemus truly believed in Jesus.  But this time he still did not know anything about spirit and spiritual concept.  In this specific field he was extremely naïve…the lowest in the spiritual level.

In Seattle was a university professor who was a Christian.  He studied the Bible very well, had a good head knowledge.  But when it comes to the spiritual matter, he got lost. He said, ”I don’t understand anything about this spirit thing.  Too ambiguous and not clearly explained.”  Spiritual realm is something to understand not by head but by heart.  We believe God’s word with our heart, then we can feel the Spirit… helping us understand the word of Jesus.

Many of us have been a long time Christian, studied the Bible rather well, had a many years of service and experience. Then, be careful! … you may fall into this problem;  understanding the word with your head, not by the spirit.  You must feel the spirit to know the truth. To know Jesus and the Bible by your heart with the Spirit.

Jesus here taught Nicodemus in this way. (paraphrasing)

“You don’t know where the wind comes from, and where it blows into.  The same way, you don’t know where the Spirit comes from, and where it is going to.  The spiritual birth is the same thing… you don’t know how or why or where it goes, but it actually happens by God’s will.”  It is beyond our understanding and no explanation would be possible. That’s the spiritual salvation.

When Jesus said “the wind”, He used the word “Pneuma (Greek) /or Ruah (Hebrew)”..

This word has 3 meanings;  wind = spirit = breath ..one word used for 3 occasions. Jesus often used this kind of puns; the word-play. It was popular in His time.  I often say the puns, but then told “an old man’s gag”.  Sad thing…

Please look at the bulletin for Today’s Scripture:  you see also here, “the Spirit of God, “the Breath of the Almighty”… the same word.

Therefore, what Jesus really wanted to say is:

The wind cannot be seen in our eye, but the wind moves leaves and branches, stronger wind even knocks down trees.  So, the wind not seen has a great effect and influence – the wind has strong power.

The same way with the Spirit, cannot be seen in our eye, but the Spirit moves people, and even create a new life. So, the Spirit not seen has a great effect and influence – the Spirit has strong power.

One example using my hobby:

Sailboats run by the wind alone.  The wind is necessity in any sailing.  In a lake, I look at the wind and shout, “there is the wind, here we get the wind.” Etsuko in the same sailboat got puzzled.  “Here and there, see the wind? How do you know???”  Actually, I am looking at a small ripple on the water surface. Then, I know the wind condition.  In a heavy storm, you don’t see the wind well. But in a quiet lake, you can see the wind by looking at the ripple. Always looking at the wind, then we can sail better.

You can feel the wind, even not seen it. If the wind hit you in winter you feel cold, but in summer you feel cool. The Spirit is the same, and you can feel.  Feel the spirit now. Feel the Spirit in your heart.

No.1 was Nicodemus’ outward and inward personality.  No.2 is Salvation Nicodemus seeks.

 

2. Nicodemus was seeking true meaning of life.  That’s why he came to see Jesus.

Who was Nicodemus?  He was a teacher in Judaism, but he did not find salvation in the religion.  He was seeking God’s truth, and found Jesus who performed numbers of miracles (signs).  Nicodemus said to Jesus in v.2.

“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.”

Nicodemus acknowledges Jesus as God’s man. Although he was much older than Jesus, he called Him “Rabbi”, teacher, showing respect to Jesus.

Nicodemus believed because he saw miracles.  His faith was given by seeing signs.  Many people were actually drawn to Jesus through His miracles. So as Nicodemus.  Other Pharisees did not believe in Jesus even seeing miracles.  They rather decided to kill Jesus.  Jesus was a threat to them.  Nicodemus was different. Among all those Pharisees who against Jesus, Nicodemus came to Jesus seeking salvation.  He is pretty good, yah?

The 2nd time Nicodemus appears in the book of John when he defends Jesus. And the 3rd time he was burying Jesus with John the Alimataya who was also a member of the council. With these evidence we can conclude that Nicodemus fully and faithfully believed in Jesus for the rest of his life. He was a black sheep among the Pharisees.

Jesus replied to Nicodemus, “ It’s good to see you.  Thank you for coming to see me.. your faith will be rewarded.”  No. Jesus did not say that.  It would be me saying this kind of phrase.  Instead, Jesus said,

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]”

A blunt answer. Not comforting at all, but it was necessary for Nicodemus to hear.  Straight forward answer was what he needed to hear.

Nicodemus again listened well, repeated many times in his mind, and trying to comprehend its meaning very well.  Understanding Jesus, believing in Jesus, and following Jesus, Nicodemus’ life had changed dramatically.  He became a rare Phariseen disciple.

Jesus taught Nicodemus about salvation in v.14.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

What does it mean? What did Moses do? Nicodemus probably did not understand this message, either. Neither did I.  Later I found out the meaning, and so, now I share it with you.

It is when Moses was leading Israelites in wilderness for 40 years, after the Exodus. People always complained and murmured against Moses and God.  God sent snakes to destroy those unfaithful people. (Numbers 21:4-9) 

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So, Moses prayed for the people.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

Moses lifts up the bronze snake up on a pole. You see the picture below. 

 

Does it look like something you know? Yes, the cross of Jesus.  Jesus mentioned that people need to look up Jesus’ cross to have an eternal life…to be saved… like Israelites looked up bronze snake to be saved.

Jesus’ teaching is very profound, isn’t it?

Today we still use this sign as a medical sign.  Snakes with pole… often used at a pharmacy, hospital, doctor’s office, ambulance cars.  This is a well-known medical sign, first indicated by Moses and mentioned by Jesus. The Bible still lives in our daily life in this way.

The most important thing about salvation …. Salvation is still the same today. When anyone look up the cross of Jesus, he or she will be saved.  You can start your life anew, anytime anywhere.  Jesus will give you a chance to restart your life.  This is the greatest gift.

Although your past was very bad, or if you have committed terrible sins, or you are in debt, or in sickness, Jesus will save you from your worst situation.  And He will give you the best place to rest in a haven. a place to restore your soul.

Today if any of you are in pain, in debt, in sick, in problem, in family issue, in human relation trouble...and so forth.  You then go to Jesus, and look up His cross.  There you find peace.  You find salvation.  You find grace.  You find love. His salvation and love reaches out to you right at this moment. Bring your thought under the cross, you then find Grace.  I mentioned this before. See this Kanji…

十         Cross      (Jujika)

思い    Thought (Omoi)

=恵     = Grace    (Megumi)

Juujika no moto ni Omoi o yosereba, Megumi ga arawareru.

 

Let us pray.

 

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