By Tyson Thorne

June 13, 2019

John 9 Large

Yesterday we discovered John's intention in telling us the story about Jesus and Nicodemus, today we'll have a look at this short but powerful discussion. To set the stage, Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the night in order to avoid being seen and to satisfy his curiosity about the true identity of this new Rabbi. He has been witness to several of Jesus' miracles and heard of still more. Could this be the long awaited Messiah? Or is he simply a more convincing con man? He had to know, but feared the ridicule he would suffer from his fellow councilmen should they find out.

While Nicodemus has a simple question, Jesus wants to go deeper. The identity of the Messiah is wrapped up in salvation and the Kingdom of God so Jesus answers, "unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Today the nomenclature of the church has so permeated the English language that such a concept is old news, but to Nicodemus it was fresh and seemingly unreasonable. How could a person be born twice?

Jesus explains that while all people are physically born, not everyone is spiritually born. He uses being born again as a metaphor for belief, even though it is so much more than that. If we were to break down Jesus' teaching it could be outlined like this:

  1. Believe the testimony of the prophets, the Law and (later) the apostles about the Messiah.
  2. Belief results in a spiritual birth, and just like a physical body the spirit too grows.
  3. Such a person will one day see the Kingdom of God.

It's a simple message, but a much more complicated process. The apostle Paul informs us that upon putting one's trust in Jesus we step into the family of God, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and undergo a spiritual baptism. We are empowered to overcome our sin nature, a kind of strengthening that only the people of God experience. We are given eyes of faith, with which we see and understand Scripture in a more meaningful way. We are never alone again, for God's presence is with us always. All of this would be too much for Nicodemus, so Jesus sticks to the basics: belief, birth and belonging.

Up to this point Nicodemus had not believed the testimony of those before him, and he questioned the miracles he saw with his own eyes. Faith would not come easy to him, but in the end he would be won over. In chapter seven we will see fearful Nicodemus meekly object to the Sanhedrin's plot to murder Jesus, and in chapter 19 he comes with Joseph of Arimathea bringing spices and dressing for Jesus' body. Some people need time to come to the fullness of faith, and Nicodemus is one of them. He may have started his faith journey in the dark, but he later testified to his love for Jesus is the light of day — the day of Jesus' death. In this way the words Jesus spoke were a prophecy:

"Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God."
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