Encounters with Jesus (Nicodemus)
Jason White

Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus (John 3) teaches us about being born again. Religion will not get you to heaven. You are spiritually dead and must be born again.

John 3:3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”




Sermon Audio Transcript
So about 2 years ago now, I was sitting in my office one day, and I began to receive a phone call. I didn’t recognize the number, but when I answered it I had an encounter with someone that would change the direction of my life. We, were living in the south Austin area at the time, and serving at a church there…and the guy that was calling me said his name was David Buckley and that he was on staff at Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Tyler, TX…I thought, well that’s interesting…I wonder why he’s calling me? And that is when he began to tell me that the Senior Pastor was stepping down and that he had gotten my name and number somehow and was calling to see if I might be interested in applying for the position when the church began accepting resumes.Well, come to find out, he had called several people besides me and when the search team began to form, they didn’t even know he had reached out to me…they had no idea who I was…But it was that encounter with David over the phone that prompted me to send my resume, and months later Natalie and I found ourselves leaving Carolyn Sunde’s house after a weekend interview with the search team and saying to each other as we got into the car, “I think we are moving to Tyler.”And here we are, having been here a little over a year now and so blessed to be a part of this loving church family…But our lives and the direction we were moving in was completely changed all because of an encounter over the phone with a guy I had never even met before.WE - And really, we’ve all had moments like that in our lives. Maybe for you it was an encounter with someone on a date and sparks began to fly and now you are spending the rest of your life with that person? Or maybe it was a teacher in J.H. or H.S., or a coach you had, or maybe it was someone you met at church camp or at a Bible study…Whoever it was surprised you when you encountered them & they made a difference in your life & maybe still do even today.Well, the Bible talks about encounters too. We see several people in the N.T. of our Bibles who have these encounters w/Jesus and their lives are never the same…and the thing about these encounters are that not only did they often make an immediate difference in people’s lives but we find the suggestion that they made an eternal difference in their lives. And so, while the encounters we can have with other people that I was talking about just a second ago can have great impact on our lives here and now, how amazing is it that it seems there were people who had their lives impacted for an eternity when they encountered Jesus? People like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Saul who became known as Paul, Zacchaeus, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and we could go on and on. So…over the next several weeks leading up to Easter, we are going to look at some of these encounters that we see people having w/Jesus. We are going to look at what went on in these encounters and how it changed the course and direction of their lives, and what it says to us today…and I want us to consider how Jesus still encounters people in our world today and changes the course and direction of lives even 2,000 years after he walked on this planet. And today we are going to start with an encounter that Jesus had with a man named Nicodemus in John 3…GOD - Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.So we learn a little bit about who Nicodemus was right here in this first verse. We are told first that he was a member of the Pharisees.This was a group of people in Jesus’ day who had a lot of power and influence within Jewish society… especially in regards to the O.T. law. They specialized in knowing the law and interpreting the law and guiding the Jewish people to obey the law. So this was a very respected group to be a part of…But not only was Nicodemus a part of this group called the Pharisees, we are also told that he is a “member of the Jewish ruling council,” which is a reference to the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was made up of only 70 people who were the most respected out of the Pharisees and other Jewish parties of Jesus’ day. So this guy is part of the religious elite in this day and time…But that’s still not all we’re told about him…You’ll see a little later in the text that Jesus calls him “Israel’s Teacher,” which is a term that has led many bible scholars to believe that Nicodemus was the most respected and prominent teacher of his day. So we are talking about true religious elite here. I mean cream of the crop. When it comes to people who are seen as good, moral, and religious people this guy is at the top of the food chain. And he is about to have an encounter with Jesus. I would imagine that Jesus is going to have to be pretty impressed with him…I mean we may even see Jesus giving him high five’s and telling him how great of a person he is for following the law and being so moral…he’ll probably even hand him a signed ticket to heaven based on who he is and what he’s doing. Let’s see… 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they …(follow all the rules like you do Nic)… are born again.” What in the world does that mean??? I mean, Nicodemus knew how to enter the Kingdom of God one day…He was religious elite…He was “Israel’s Teacher,” and he knew (or at least thought he knew) that all Jews who faithfully kept the law would enter the Kingdom of God one day in the future…SO WHAT IN THE WORLD IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT HERE, THAT TO SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD YOU HAVE TO BE BORN AGAIN???Now one thing to point out here is that what is translated “born again” here in the original Greek could also be translated “born from above.” So it could be that Jesus was saying, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born from above. Or it may be that Jesus was trying to say both of these things were true…that someone had to be born again to enter the kingdom of God and that type of birth is from above. Either way, Nicodemus doesn’t really get it. 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” So obviously Nicodemus doesn’t get it…his mind when he heard the “born again language” went straight to natural/physical birth… but today, 2,000 yrs later much of our culture is confused by this as well. When many hear the words “born again,” their mind immediately goes to religious fanatic/fundamentalist/politically conservative. So, this needs more explanation, which Jesus provides next…V55 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.So there it is…what Jesus is talking about a spiritual birth…that in order to enter the kingdom of God, a person has to be spiritually born again by the Holy Spirit above.Now Jesus does say in v. 5 that one must be born of water and the Spirit…so what’s the deal with this water?Okay, so remember who Jesus is talking to here…Nicodemus is “Israel’s Teacher,” a member of the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. He knows the Old Testament. He is an expert in the O.T.Well, look at what the O.T. says in Ezekiel 36:25-26…25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. H2O in the OT is a symbol of renewal/cleansing. So what we see here is that what was ultimately needed was not their exterior, religious compliance to the law, but they needed their heart to be cleansed…It needed to be cleansed b/c it was dirty…filled with the power of sin that we all inherit and are born with…ILLUSTRATION: I have a little 16 foot bass fishing boat that I keep out in my driveway with a cover on it. And when we moved here last year, it just sat in the driveway for several months b/c I was way to busy to get out and use it. Well, one day I was finally going to get to go fishing and so I lifted up the cover, and the entire boat was filled with water…slimy, oily, nasty colored water that had an odor to it.I had accidently left the plug in the boat and with all of the snow that we had it had melted and just seeped through the cover and filled up the boat and had been like that for a long time…and that water was growing stuff, nasty stuff in it…And I had no idea it was even there. From the outside it looked fine, but on the inside there was a problem that I could not see…Jesus is saying that there is a problem with our hearts due to sin and no amount of exterior, religious performance is going to cleanse what’s on the inside…As a matter of fact it’s dead…sin causes spiritual death…and so we must be born again…our spirit needs to come to life…And that can only happen from above! It has to come from the Holy Spirit who Jesus said in V6 gives birth to our dead spirit caused by sin.BUT HOW? How does that happen? Well, Nicodemus will find out a bit later as his encounter with Jesus continues…But for now, Jesus has just used language that should have pointed Israel’s teacher to the O.T. and what he is talking about here, so look what he says in v7…7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ You of all people Nicodemus shouldn’t be surprised by this b/c the O.T. foretells of this needing to happen and what was going to happen one day… And he shouldn’t be dumbfounded about how the Lord can accomplish this, so next he gives him an illustration… 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.He still doesn’t get it…so Jesus says in v10…10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.In other words, Jesus (being God) speaks with authority on this matter b/c heaven is His home. It is where He came from when He descended to earth and took on an additional human nature. And so He is the authority on matters of the Kingdom of God and what is necessary for us as His creation to enter into that kingdom alongside of Him. (“I feel this is the way…”NO, u r not the auth.!)And then after establishing his authority on this matter in His encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus finally gets to how this new birth from above actually happens. V14-1514 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” So Jesus once again goes to an O.T. passage in this encounter w/Nicodemus b/c Nicodemus would have been familiar with it. And it’s a story from Numbers 21 where basically a bunch of snakes were biting the Israelite people and they were getting sick and some were dying…And God told Moses to make a snake out of bronze and set it on a pole and to lift that pole up in the air and when people looked at the snake that was being lifted up God would heal them.And so basically it was an expression of faith…If the Israelites would believe that looking at the snake would heal them, they would be healed (not by the snake of course, but by God)…it was an expression of faith that God could heal them.And Jesus makes the connection that the same type of thing must happen to him in order for all of humanity to be healed…to receive this new heart from above that he was talking about throughout this encounter w/Nicodemus. Jesus would be “lifted up” on the cross to suffer and die…taking the punishment for all of our sin… …and if we will just put our faith in Him and His finished work on the cross then he will forgive our sins and we will have eternal life in that moment……we will be born again from above…receive new life……we will no longer will we be spiritually dead, but made spiritually alive, and we will enter into an eternal, abundant life with Him that starts right there in that very moment of belief.And so this is HOW Jesus tells Nicodemus the new birth will occur, it’s gift that must be received by faith…And then, this is where John inserts the most famous words in all of the Bible…v.16-1716 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.This is what Jesus wanted Nicodemus to see about Him…about the truth of what was really needed in his life and all of our lives…That all of his religiosity and exterior performance was not going to be enough to get him into the kingdom of God b/c his problem ran much deeper than he could ever imagine…It was a heart problem…a spiritual death issue that could only be dealt with a new birth by the Holy Spirit Himself and that Jesus was here to accomplish what was necessary to make that possible.TRANSITION: So, what happened to Nicodemus after this encounter?Well, we don’t see a lot recorded in the Bible honestly…We see him surface in John 7 where he kind of comes to Jesus’ defense in a discussion about him…but we also see him resurface in John 19 after Jesus’ death…38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.Now this may not seem like a big deal, but for Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, the group who was responsible for having Jesus killed… to put himself out there to be seen caring for Jesus was huge. Also, some estimates say he would have had to have spent between $100K-$200K to buy 75 lbs of spices! He was invested…and while John doesn’t say he was a disciple, he is with Joseph who is listed as a disciple.I believe that Nicodemus did come to realize that Jesus was who He had claimed to be, and that he saw the depth of his sin and need for a new heart and that he looked up to Jesus who was lifted up for him and put his faith in him for salvation and that he was born again and had his life transformed and changed forever.We even have some sources in early church history who claim that the San kicked him out and banished from Jerusalem…& that he was beaten and martyred for Jesus & it all began w/an EncounterYOU – But what about you? What does this have to do with you? Well, the same offer of salvation is open to you today. If you’ve been operating out of a belief that all people go to heaven or that you will get in b/c you are a pretty moral person, what we’ve seen today is that our problem runs way deeper than that. You have a heart issue, a sin problem that can only be dealt with by spiritually being born again. And so if you will turn to Jesus today and receive his grace by placing your faith in Him, you will be born again from above!But I also think this says so much to those of us who are here today and have put our faith in Jesus. B/C if Jesus says we have to become born again and that happens through faith in him, then that means if you’ve put your faith in Him that YOU HAVE BEEN BORN AGAIN!You are someone new…and yet so many of us live our lives trying to make ourselves into better people through religion, even in the church. What this says to us is that we are already different and can now live out of the new person that we’ve become in Christ.Bruce Willis (Sixth Sense)…didn’t realize he was dead until end of movie…Most people walking around don’t realize how dead they really are, but the flip side of that is true as well…most of us who have been born again don’t realize how alive we really are!!!