8. Nighttime visit of Nicodemus
A MAN of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Master, 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,
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? 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. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus said, How can these things be? Jesus answered,
Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
¶And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
¶For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
¶He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Scripture: John 3:1-8
Meditation 1 of 3:
Do you nourish your faith with prayerful reflection of the word of God? When Nicodemus heard about Jesus’ miracles and extraordinary teaching, he decided to meet with him privately, away from the crowds and the public spotlight. Nicodemus was no ordinary Jew. He was a religious ruler and member of the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jews, and a teacher of Israel (John 3:10). He was a devout Pharisee who sought to perfectly follow the law of Moses, as prescribed in the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers) and further elaborated in the numerous scribal laws, recorded in the Mishnah and the Talmud. Nicodemus decided to meet with Jesus at night, possibly for two reasons. He may have been cautious and not ready to publicly associate himself with Jesus since many Pharisees opposed Jesus’ teaching and called him a Sabbath breaker. It is also likely that Nicodemus chose the night as the best time for seeking a private and undisturbed conversation with Jesus. The rabbis declared that the best time to study the law was at night after the day’s work was completed and the household was at rest. When Nicodemus saw Jesus he addressed him asrabbi (a teacher of God’s word and law) and acknowledged that Jesus’ teaching came from God.
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus went to the very heart of the Mosaic law – how can one get right with God and enter God’s kingdom? Jesus’ answer was brief and startling: “Unless one is born anew, he cannot see God.” The new birth which Jesus spoke about was not a physical birth but the beginning of a spiritual birth which is something completely new and radical, and from above, namely from God himself. Jesus said that this rebirth was necessary if one was to enter God’s kingdom. Nicodemus thought that to be born again, even spiritually, was impossible. He probably knew too well from experience that anyone who wants to be changed, can’t change himself. Jesus explained that this change could only come about through the work and action of the Holy Spirit. This rebirth in the Spirit is very real and experiential, like the wind which can be felt and heard while it is visibly unseen to the naked eye.
What does it mean to be reborn in the Spirit? The new birth Jesus speaks of is a spiritual birth to a new life and experiential relationship with God as his sons and daughters. This new birth is made possible when one is baptized into Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wants to renew all his people in the gift of new life in his Holy Spirit. This new life brings us into God’s kingdom and heavenly way of life. What is God’s kingdom? God’s kingdom is that society of men and women who acknowledge God as their Lord and who live according to his will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). To be reborn is to enter that society in which God is honored and obeyed, to live as citizens of heaven and members of God’s family – his sons and daughters, and to enter into possession of that life which comes from God himself, a never-ending life of love, peace, joy, and freedom from sin and the fear of death. Do you know the joy and freedom of new life in Jesus Christ?
“Lord Jesus Christ, you offer us a new birth in the Holy Spirit. Renew in me the gift of faith and new life in your Holy Spirit. Help me to draw near to you and to believe in your life-giving word. May your kingdom come and may your will be done in my life today, tomorow, and always.”
Scripture: John 3:7-15
Meditation 2 of 3:
Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of a “new birth in the Spirit.” The Hebrew word for “spirit” means both “wind” and “breath“. Jesus says to Nicodemus: “You can hear, feel, and see the effects of the wind, but you do not know where it comes from. In like manner, you can see the effects of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those the Spirit touches.” Jesus explains to Nicodemus the necessity of the crucifixion and resurrection by analogy with Moses and the bronze serpent in the desert. When the people of Israel were afflicted with serpents in the wilderness because of their sin, God instructed Moses: “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8). The bronze serpent points to the cross of Christ which defeats sin and death and obtains everlasting life for those who believe. The result of Jesus “being lifted up on the cross” and his rising and exaltation to the Father’s right hand in heaven, is our “new birth in the Spirit” and adoption as sons and daughters of God. God not only redeems us, but he fills us with his own divine life and power that we might share in his glory. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit that we may have power to be his witnesses and to spread and defend the gospel by word and action, and to never be ashamed of Christ’s Cross. The Holy Spirit gives us his seven-fold gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence for God and his ways, and a holy fear in God’s presence (see Isaiah 11) that we may live God’s way of life and serve in the power of his strength. Do you thirst for new life in the Spirit?
“Lord Jesus Christ, your death brought life for us. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may walk in freedom and joy as a child of God and as an heir with Christ of an eternal inheritance.”
Scripture: John 3:16-21
Meditation 3 of 3:
True love doesn’t count the cost; it gives liberally. A true lover gives the best he has to offer and everything he has for the beloved. God proved his love for us by giving us the best he had to offer — his only begotten Son who freely gave himself as an offering to God for our sake and as the atoning sacrifice for our sin and the sin of the world. Abraham’s willing sacrifice of his only son, Isaac prefigures the perfect offering and sacrifice of God’s beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This passage in the gospel of John tells us of the great breadth and width of God’s love. Not an excluding love for just a few or for a single nation, but a redemptive love that embraces the whole world, and a personal love for each and every individual whom God has created. God is a loving Father who cannot rest until his wandering children have returned home to him. Saint Augustine says, God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. God gives us the freedom to choose whom and what we will love. Jesus shows us the paradox of love and judgment. We can love the darkness of sin and unbelief or we can love the light of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness. If our love is guided by what is true, and good and beautiful then we will choose for God and love him above all else. What we love shows what we prefer. Do you love God above all else? Does he take first place in your life, in your thoughts, and actions?
“Lord Jesus Christ, your love is better than life itself. May your love consume and tranform my life that I may desire you above all else. Help me to love what you love, to desire what you desire, and to reject what you reject”.