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May 27

Midnight Visitor

READ: John 3:1-36

Now there was a man from the Pharisees, whose name was Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. (2) This man came to him at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you have come as a teacher from God, for no one is able to do these signs which you are doing, if God was not with him. (3) Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, if someone is not born from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God. (4) Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person be born, being old? It is not possible to enter a second time into the womb of his mother and be born?” (5) Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, if someone is not born of water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (6) The one who has been born of the flesh is flesh, and the one who has been born of the spirit is spirit. (7) Do not be amazed that I say to you, “It is necessary for you to be born from above.” (8) The spirit blows wherever it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know from where it comes and to where it leads; thus is everyone who has been born of the spirit.” (9) Nicodemus answered and said to him, “How can these things be?” (10) Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not know these things! (11) Truly, truly I say to you that which we know we speak and that which we have seen we testify and you do not receive our testimony. (12) If I speak to you of earthly things and you do not believe, how, if I speak to you of heavenly things, will you believe? (13) And no one has gone up into heaven if not the one who came down out of heaven, the Son of Man. (14) And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, in this way it is necessary for the Son of May to be lifted up, (15) so that all who believe in him might have eternal life.

(16) For in this way God loves the world; that he gave the uniquely begotten Son, so that all who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send the Son into the world so that he might judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through him. (18) The one who believes in him will not be judged; but the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the uniquely begotten Son of God. (19) And this is the judgment: that the light has come into the world and the people loved the darkness more than the light, for their deeds were evil. (20) For everyone who practices evil hates the light and does not come to the light, so that his deeds might not be exposed. (21) But the one who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds might be made known that they have been done in God.

(22) After these things Jesus came, and his disciples, into the Judean land and he was spending some time there with them and baptizing. (23) And also John the Baptizer was in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there, and they were coming and being baptized. (24) For John had not yet been thrown into prison. (25) Then, there was a discussion from the disciples of John with a Jew concerning purification. (26) And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you on the other side of the Jordan, about whom you testified, look, this one is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” (27) John answered and said, “A person is not able to receive one thing if it has not been given to him from heaven. (28) You yourselves can testify for me that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but that I am the one sent before that man.’ (29) The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, the one who has stood and heard him, is filled with joy because of the voice of the bridegroom. Therefore, this joy of mine has been made full. (30) It is necessary for that one to increase, but for me to decrease.”

(31) The one who comes from above is over all; the one who is from the earth, is of the earth and he speaks from the earth. The one coming from heaven is above all. (32) What he has seen and heard, this he testifies, but his testimony no one receives. (33) He who received his testimony certified that God is true. (34) For the one whom God sent speaks the word of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. (35) The Father loves the Son and He has given all things into his hand. (36) He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the anger of God remains on him.

REFLECT & REASON

One of the arguments employed by those who opposed and rejected Jesus and the early Christians (I.e., the Jewish leaders), was that none of the Jewish leaders believed in him. In other words, the only people Jesus was able to scam were those who were “unschooled and ordinary.” Those with education and knowledge of the scriptures saw through the lies and cheap tricks. In order to undermine that argument, John calls Nicodemus to the stand, “a man of the Pharisees…a leader of the Jews”, who at this point may not have been convinced but was certainly interested enough to check him out. We will meet Nicodemus later when the strength of his testimony will be fully realized because he won’t be hiding in the shadows of the night.

The content of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus cannot afford to be overlooked, but there is not time in this kind of study to discuss it in detail. Suffice it to say that Jesus taught Nicodemus that one cannot slip quietly into the kingdom of God but rather that everyone must experience a spiritual birth. Only those who are “born from above” (I.e., “of water and spirit”) will “see” or “enter the kingdom of God.” Even Nicodemus, though “a ruler of the Jews” and “the teacher of Israel” was required to submit to John’s “baptism of repentance” and “believe in the One who is coming,” the one “who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” But, ifJesus was so clearly that One, why didn’t more Jews accept his testimony? John makes it very clear, that it was not because the testimony about Jesus was not clear and it wasn’t for lack of effort on God’s part, but because people refused to come into the light. They didn’t want their deeds exposed.

Then we see John the Baptist being recalled back to testify in Jesus’ behalf (3:22-36). He makes clear that there are eternal implications to accepting or rejecting Jesus. Accept that Jesus is “the one who comes from above…whom God has sent” and you will have eternal life. Reject him and “God’s wrath remains on” you. Salvation or condemnation, heaven or hell, grace or judgment – there is no middle ground. Is Jesus the Son of God? If he is, then what you decide will determine your eternal destiny.

As I entered my university career, as an unbeliever, this is what I thought – “No one who is truly educated, successful or intelligent believes in God.” All my heroes up to that point had been atheists and I had accepted completely what they had put their faith in – that there is no God and that this life is all there is. However, it didn’t take long to realize that many “leaders” were believers and even devoted followers of Jesus. In the book of Acts, Luke clearly communicates that many who accepted the early Christians’ teaching were prominent people in their communities.

It’s still a popular argument used today by those who reject the claims of Jesus, yet it is an argument that is (and was in the first century), completely without a basis in fact. There are many intelligent, educated and successful (by the world’s standards) leaders who believe that Jesus is who he claims to be.

RESPOND

Do you know people who are considered successful in this life and who have committed their lives to following Jesus? Reason, education and success in this world does lead some to God, not away from him. How about you? While there are intellectual issues that must be resolved before some can decide to put their faith in Jesus, for everyone there is a moral issue that must be resolved: do you want to have your deeds remain in the darkness or are you willing to step into the light?

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