I have to admit that the story of Nicodemus in chapter three is a bit frustrating to me. I mean, the author John tells this fascinating story of a powerful political and religious leader coming to Jesus in the night. John sucks you into this story penning the thought provoking verbal exchange of Nicodemus and Jesus and then boom….it ends abruptly in verse 21.
Does it bother anyone else that we do not know what Nicodemus did immediately? I mean in the next chapter (4), John is kind enough to inform us that the woman in that story ran immediately back to her village to tell everyone about this man named Jesus. But for some reason John leaves us hanging with Nicodemus.
Did he run back to his big wig buddies and let them know that they are headed down the wrong path? Or did he leave quietly, without a response to Jesus and go back to his life pondering the idea of being ‘born again? Honestly, I find the Bible quite frustrating at times for leaving out details that I want to know.
The truth is…we don’t need those details. We do need the words of Jesus in verses 10-21. Though I am so glad that later in his book John chose to name Nicodemus as one of the men who helped give Jesus a proper burial (John 19:38-39), the truth is Nicodemus’s ears are the recipient of the most famous words of Jesus, John 3:16….and yet I would bet that most people in the world who can quote that verse wouldn’t have a clue who Nicodemus is.
This is something I really never thought about much until this past week. Though the verbal exchange seems to end without a conclusion, I do believe John very intentionally moves to the next exchange in chapter 3…John the Baptist.
In the remainder of this chapter John the Baptist is explaining to his own followers that he is simply preparing the way for Jesus. John the Baptist speaks these powerful words, “He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease.”
Nicodemus…the recipient of the most famous words of Jesus…and yet we know very little about him. In my own mind, I like to think that Nicodemus left Jesus quietly that night. And in the quiet of his own synagogue quarters, those powerful words resonated in his ears, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The image in my mind is of Nicodemus kneeling by his bed trembling at those words that have made so many tremble.
Do you think perhaps the politically and religiously powerful Nicodemus was thinking the same thing that the desert-living, locust eating recluse John the Baptist was thinking, “He (Jesus) must increase. I must decrease.”
That’s what Jesus does. . .penetrates the hearts of ALL men and women, no matter their social status. And that’s what the Bible has the power to do. Humble even the most powerful in society, bringing them to their knees …bowing to the name that is above every name, Jesus. Philippians 2:9-11, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name, tat at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The simple verse that sports fans write on their chests and young children memorize to get a star by their name on the scripture memory chart in Sunday School…that verse John 3:16 has forever changed the course of millions of lives (the first of which was Nicodemus).
There are so many other deep theological things to study in the third chapter of John. A Bible student could spend months in this chapter formulating views on baptism and the Holy Spirit (and I hope you will all study those things!). There are many great Old Testament Scriptures that connect to the third chapter of John and there are times when I find it rewarding to spend time making all those connections.
However, this week I simply could not get past Nicodemus and John 3:16. I could not get my mind off the fact that there are so many people in our world like Nicodemus who are blinded by power and status. These powerful, yet lost people can be found both outside and inside the walls of churches today.
I wept this week when I read John 3:16. . . a verse I have read a bazillion times in my life and probably could recite at age 2. In the wee hours of the morning, I sat in my recliner and thought about Nicodemus and I couldn’t stop the tears.
My prayer for each and every person reading this is that you will love the Light more than the dark. That like Nicodemus, you will have a personal encounter with the One who was sent into this world to save you from that darkness.
John 3:16-21 (NLT)
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.
19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.
20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.
21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
If you are not sure if you are ‘born again,’ let me encourage you to spend some to in these verses:
1. God loves you even though you are a sinner (Romans 5:8)
2. Romans 3:23 tells us that our sin separates us from God’s glory.
3. John 14:6 lets us know that Jesus is the ONLY way to God.
4. John 1:12-13 (NLT) says “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
5. John 3:16 tells us that when we believe in him (are born again), we will have eternal life.
It gets even better…John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came to give us an ‘abundant’ life. . .a life that can find peace and joy amidst the heartache and pain of life on earth.
May you, my friend, experience this abundant life that Jesus promised!
Here’s some questions to ponder in your journal or go discuss them on our facebook group!
1. John 3:8 compares evidence of the Holy Spirit to the wind. What is one recent event in your life that was evidence to you that the Holy Spirit is indeed working in and through you? What are some things that can ‘blind’ us from seeing the evidence of the Holy Spirit?
2. Matthew 12:30 (NLT) says, “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” We live in a world that encourages ‘tolerance’. How could tolerance (as the world defines it) be dangerous for a ‘believer?’
3. Why do you think so many people have a difficult time turning from their sins? What are the earthly benefits of repenting and allowing the Light to expose your sins?
On a personal note…I had hoped to share some pictures and more on prayer this week…but my son is turning 7 tomorrow and my focus has been on him this week…I’ll be sure to share pictures with you next week!