Letters to the Prison - Week 30

Hello, everyone!
We’re reading the Gospel of John and we hope you’ve decided to read along with us.  If you need a Bible, ask for one!  If you’re still thinking about it, there’s no better time than now.  The book of John is one of the most important books in the Bible.  Further, chapter 3 contains one of the most important conversations ever recorded:  The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus –who happens to be one of the most important men in Israel.  And what is said between them is extremely important to us.  Right now.  Today.  Why?  Because it explains what it means to be born again.  So, let’s begin!
Remember, we’re reading the book of John with a focus on what Jesus says about himself and what others say about him.  Right away, we see Nicodemus saying something profound about Jesus.  Look at verse 2:
•2 This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”-John 3:2
So, Nicodemus refers to Jesus as “Rabbi,” which is nothing new… at first glance.  We will see later on, though, that Nicodemus referring to Jesus as “Teacher” is a pretty major thing given who Nicodemus is.  But for now, what is important to notice is the rest of what Nicodemus says.  Not only is Jesus a teacher, according to Nicodemus, but he has “come from God.”  Further, Nicodemus clearly knows he has proof that Jesus has “come from God” because, he adds, “no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
Remember last week we talked about Nathanael and Jesus’ promise to him that he would see “greater things?”  Jesus made good on that promise, as we saw… and not just to Nathanael but to Nicodemus too, apparently.  Because Nicodemus himself has either seen the “greater things” (signs) Jesus has done so far, or he has heard about them from a source that he trusts because he clearly believes they actually happened.  Otherwise, he wouldn’t be coming to Jesus and calling him “teacher” and saying he knows that Jesus has “come from God.”
Actually, it’s really important to note that Nicodemus doesn’t say that he knows Jesus has come from God…  he says, “we know.”  That’s important.  Why?  Well, who’s “we?”  Look at verse 1:
•Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. -John 3:1
So, this gives us one clue as to who Nicodemus is.  We see also that Nicodemus is a “ruler of the Jews,” but we’ll consider that more later.  For now, it’s important to know that Nicodemus is visiting Jesus as a representative of the Pharisees.  These were extremely important, powerful and educated men in Israel during that time.  They were also bitterly opposed to Jesus and would eventually conspire to have him put to death, as we will see later in the study.
So, these were Jesus’ enemies.  People who wanted him dead.  And Nicodemus was one of them.  So, when Nicodemus says “we,” he is referring to himself and the other Pharisees.  Yet here he is, in verse 2, calling Jesus “Rabbi” and admitting that he (and the rest of the Pharisees) knows that Jesus has come from God and that they know this because of the signs Jesus has done –signs like turning water into wine (and many others)-- that no man could do “unless God is with him.”  Even Jesus’ enemies acknowledge that he has backed his claims up with powerful actions.  
So, Nicodemus and the Pharisees know the truth about Jesus, and they know that they have trustworthy proof (already!) that Jesus is who he says he is.  They know that God is with him.  What an amazing admission from Jesus’ enemies.  What’s even more amazing (and tragic), as we will see, is that they continued to be Jesus’ enemies despite what they clearly and undeniably knew about him.  
Before we get to how Jesus responds to this amazing statement by Nicodemus, it’s important to remember what John said about Jesus at the end of chapter 2:
•24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.-John 2:24-25
We saw last week how this meant that Jesus knows the hearts and minds of all people.  Including us.  Including Nicodemus, too.  Look how Jesus responds to him:
•3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[a] he cannot see the kingdom of God.”-John 3:3
So, Jesus blows right past Nicodemus’ opening statement and gets right to the very core of what he knows Nicodemus is concerned about:  How to see the kingdom of God.  That Nicodemus is concerned about this will be startling to us once we understand exactly who Nicodemus is.  For now, it’s important to see that this is the second time in John’s Gospel where Jesus begins a statement by saying “truly truly.”  When we see these words, it means Jesus is saying something extremely important… something we need to pay attention to and consider carefully.
What does Jesus say?  That unless a person is born again, they cannot see the kingdom of God.  But what does that mean?  On the one hand, this is as clear a statement as any other:  If one wants to see the kingdom of God, one must be born again.  There’s no other way.  Yet, as we will soon see, Nicodemus himself has a hard time understanding it.  So, we shouldn’t be surprised if we too have a tough time figuring it out.  One thing is clear, though:  We (and Nicodemus) need to understand what it means to be born again.
We hope that you sincerely desire to understand what it means to be born again.  We assure you of this:  God wants you to be born again.  He wants eternal fellowship with you.  God wants to give you new life.  And he can make it happen.  So, ask him!  He won’t disappoint you.
Until next week:  We love you!  Keep reading John 3!

Dean A.

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