The Religious Teacher:
Searching for Answers
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:1-7)
Jesus was in Jerusalem, the capitol city of Israel. He had performed many miracles, after which many believed on him. But he did not yet reveal the fact that he was the Messiah come from God. He knew all men and the thoughts in man. (John 2:23-25)
We learn that Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. The Jewish nation, known as the country of Israel, is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham about 4,000 years ago. God had chosen Abraham to reveal Himself as a personal God to the world. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). He was called the Friend of God. (James 2:23)
The Jewish leaders, especially the Pharisees, were strict adherents of the Law of Moses. God had separated his people the Israelites from the worldly nations. The biggest difference was that the Gentile nations worshipped false idols like the sun and moon. God demanded that they worship only the true God who created this world.
But when Jesus was born, many Jewish leaders didn’t believe that He was God. They were skeptical. They were looking for a political savior to free them from the Roman government.
Next, Nicodemus approaches Jesus personally and acknowledges him as a teacher come from God. He admitted that the miracles Jesus had performed were only possible if God was with him.
Jesus performed many miracles during his three-year public ministry. If all the works Christ did were recorded, the world could not contain the books! (John 21:25) Jesus did what no one else could do. Jesus convinced the skeptics, calmed the storms, conquered evil spirits, cured the sick, and converted sinners.
The Declaration of the Kingdom of God
Jesus’s message to mankind was regarding the Kingdom of God. Men love power and desire to rule others. But God’s desire is to rule the heart of man. The Creator who made the earth has the right to make the rules. He wants us to recognize who the true God in Heaven is and submit to his authority. This is a matter of faith from our heart, not words from our lips or works of our hands. This is why there was much confusion in the mind of Nicodemus. He had observed God’s laws, had an important position as a leader, and tried to live a good life. But Jesus would point out something that was missing in his life.
The Distinction of the Flesh and Spirit
Jesus told Nicodemus that God’s kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, not earthly. He proceeded to explain that this was a spiritual concept, not to be experienced in the physical realm. It was necessary to be born again by the Spirit of God!
Nicodemus was confused. “How can I be born twice?”, he asked (verse 4). In verses 5-7, Jesus gives him the answer. The first birth is our physical birth – the time we enter this world from our mother’s womb. The second birth is a spiritual birth – the time we enter God’s family by the Holy Spirit.
Let us consider the illustration of a candle. A candle is made up of two basic parts, the wax and the wick. But the purpose of the candle is to burn a flame. A flame gives light and warmth. Without the wax and wick there can be no flame. But without the flame, the wax and wick do not fulfill their purpose.
Our life is like a candle in that we have a body and soul. The body and soul is like the wax and wick of a candle. But without our spirit being made alive, our life is unfulfilled just as a candle is useless until the flame is lit. It is through our spirit that we may know God.
The body is made up of five senses (taste, touch, see, smell, and hear) which allow us to interact with the physical world around us. The soul is composed of our intellect, emotions, and will. We have a brain with which to think, an heart to feel emotion, and a will by which we make decisions. Because we have a soul, we have self-consciousness.
But the most important part of humans, that differentiates us from animals, is that we have a spirit. The spirit is the way by which we have a God-consciousness. We desire to worship, make and follow moral laws, and seek justice. But there is a problem! Because we are sinners, our spirit is dead. Our sin separates us from God’s Spirit.
Because of Adam and Eve’s first sin of disobedience in the Garden of Eden, all people are born in sin. Our sin separates us from God. Our spirit is the avenue by which we are influenced by God or Satan. By nature, we are born sinners and are in darkness. This is why Jesus came into the world - to bring light! We are dead in our sin, but Jesus came to give us eternal life!
Jesus goes on to explain, as Nicodemus still did not understand. He tells him a story from Israel’s History. Jesus tells Nicodemus a story from the life of Moses. The Israelites had refused to worship the true God who loved them and were being punished by poisonous snakes. But God still wanted to show mercy and forgive them. So he told Moses to make a snake out of metal and put it on a pole. Whoever would look on it would be healed.
Jesus explained that the Son of man (speaking of himself) would also be raised on a pole (the cross) to die for the sins of all people. Through this comparison, Jesus showed how he would provide forgiveness for our sin! All who would look to him for salvation would receive mercy from God. God would give eternal life instead of punishment in hell fire.
Jesus came to give deliverance from sin and its punishment, yet many still reject Jesus the Son of God. (vv18-21) God gives us the following warning. The sinner is condemned because “he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (v.18). “…men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (v.19). Lastly, “he…hateth the light, …lest his deeds should be reproved” (v.20).
But there is hope for the person willing to accept truth and come to the light. Freedom from darkness is possible if you believe on Jesus Christ. Our religious rituals and good works cannot give us spiritual life any more than meditation in a cave can bring enlightenment. Consider the final words in vv34-36.
For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:34-36)
It is important to remember that religion cannot make man free from his sinful condition. Nicodemus learned that new life is a spiritual matter that only Jesus could give. Jesus alone has the answers to give purpose to your life.