July 26th, 2013, 5:45 am #1
John 3 Nicodemus and Jesus discussion, what was it really about?
I have wanted to do this for awhile now and I think it is finally time for me to offer my view of Nicodemus and Jesus conversation. Outside of scripture there are little known facts of who Nicodemus was but there are the typical assertions and or assumptions of who he was. The most trustworthy (that is not to say it is completely accurate) source for who Nicodemus is comes from the Talmud and Jewish Encyclopedia which describes him as a wealthy and popular Holy Man that some rumored him to have miraculous powers. The complete name associated with him is Nicodemus ben Gurion (1). I do not hold great confidence that this is accurate but it is the strongest source available for who he might have been. Since it is not possible to prove who he exactly was but only offer theories already offered by others I will refrain from continuing in vanity to his identity and look more to his words and deeds contained in scripture.
John 3: 1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 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.
Now here we see that Nicodemus is identified as a Pharisee also a ruler of the Jews for most in their simplicity this means he is a bad guy thanks to the little kids’ songs that say, a Pharisee aint Fair you see. The truth is, it took a great deal of integrity and courage to come before this Jesus from the common folks and worse from Nazareth, as we have read, John 1: 45 - 50 --- Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? --- a term said in derision for many in Judah in those days. Yet Nicodemus is curious or trusting enough in his position to come to this Jesus and even state that Jesus is a teacher come from God. Something the Israelites had not seen in nearly 400 years. Nicodemus does not stop there but goes further and acknowledges the miracles that Jesus is performing are valid and real and can only happen because God is with Him. Now lets think about that statement coming from a Pharisee Jew. How huge is that acknowledgment coming from a man representative of many men who claim to have the only Right as the sons of Abraham to have God with them. Now let us move on while that is on your brain to Jesus’s response back to Nicodemus.
John 3: 3 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.
This answer back has had me puzzled for a long time because it does not seem to equate to the comments from Nicodemus. Why did the Jesus bring up being born again and the kingdom of God. Well I have come to the opinion that the two are related by way of the mindset of many of the leadership class of the Jews. They were prideful, arrogant, demanding, and legalistic as Matthew 23 shows a great deal of how Jesus viewed their minds and more importantly their hearts. So this group of leaders predominantly have grown accustom to the finer things, they revel in the idea of being the separate chosen people of God, they are waiting and desiring the coming Messiah but are to busy to pay attention to His actual presence. They are expecting the deliverance into the Kingdom from the mighty deliverer by binding down the hearts, souls, and hopes of others. Jesus knew their pride in being the seed of Abraham and expectation of a resurgent Kingdom and once more they were already warned about taking pride in being the seed of Abraham from John the Immerser. Matthew 3: 7-9 “---- think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father ----“
So Jesus knowing their pride and expectations of Kingdom establishment goes straight to the matter with Nicodemus. When Jesus says except a man be born again it is commonly accepted that He is referencing salvation but I propose that He is actually making reference to their security in being the seed of Abraham. They took pride in it but Jesus is telling them as John the Immerser had also done that that is not good enough to see the Kingdom of God. It takes more than being the seed of flesh man (Abraham) it takes being born again putting aside the flesh connection and growing to the Spiritual connection.
Remember the Rich young Ruler story how he came to Jesus and asked what must I do to be saved and Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The young man says I have done so my whole life and Jesus accepts that answer from him. Jesus did not chastise him, ridicule him as a liar, or scold him for a false witness. Instead when the young man asks again what more must I do Jesus simply says sell all you have and give to the poor and then follow me. Of which it is prudent for one to recognize that Jesus just told the young man that he needed to humble himself and submit to Jesus as savior by those words. See the commandments as we are taught in Galatians is to be the Israelites (all of mankinds) tutor or schoolmaster in understanding Jesus and Salvation. They highlight the greatness of God as creator, the duty the creation has in honoring Him, the inability in mankinds complete ability to honor Him, and the payment that must be made to honor Him. Jesus as flesh man was able to completely honor the Father in Heaven and as such He is our only true example of complete love and worship and we are to follow His example. That’s what the first part of the rich young rulers answer confirmed and Jesus did not deny it but when it got down to him humbling himself and submitting to Jesus as the way of Salvation the rich young ruler would not comply. (I can only hope and pray that at some point in his life he changed from that stubbornness). Pride and privilege are every bit as dangerous now as they were back in their day.
So lets get back to Nicodemus answer in response to Jesus going straight to the point.
John 3: 4 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?
Again going back to the pride they had in being the seed of Abraham, Nicodemus is asking how is it possible to undo something that is long since done. How does one become something other than what he already is? These are ideas and concepts that the Jews were very protective of because they took great pride in showing their lineage to establish their position within the communities they lived in. The basis of who owned what and where they were to serve is rooted in their lineage as the seed of Abraham.
John 3: 5 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.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 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.
Again the focus many place on this verse is the born of water portion but I think the key goes much broader than those three words would lead someone. Many say this is speaking of all of mankinds natural birth born of water and yet some think it means solely baptism which leads a good portion of the first thinkers into a big fit of baptismal regeneration and or newlightism rants. I want to focus again on who Jesus is talking to specifically and what about which is why I am writing my thoughts on this. (I hope though that reasonable people understand that the thoughts one might have on a topic may at a later date change as wisdom and maturity grow within a person.)
Nicodemus a Pharisee Jew bound and proud of his position as a child of Abraham under the OT covenanted law for a separate and special people saved from death as a nation. In like mindedness of the Rich young Ruler kept the commandments of the Law and was in fact a teacher of the Law according to Jesus own testimony about Nicodemus. Needed to be born again not after the manner of the flesh but instead after the manner of the Spirit, not as a lost man outside of the covenantal relationship but as a rebellious man within it again like the Rich young Ruler. The Commandments were to show them; as was said before, of their inability to keep the law completely and that they needed a savior to pay that death payment for them. Once one really saw who Jesus was as the Son of God like Nathaniel did and believed then they are to be baptized. For many baptism only represents death but for a follower of Jesus, baptism is more than just the end of one thing but it is also the beginning of another, a new beginning or born again. You can find this example in each and everyone of Israel’s OT crossings the Gulf of Aquaba; Exodus 14, and the crossing of the Jordan; Joshua 4, this is a point where some want to jump to the idea of this being the root of baptismal regeneration but the reality is Israel was saved from death by the innocent blood of the lamb BEFORE these instances. What the crossings show is the burial of the old life that has died to raise up a new creature a, Spiritually minded creature. This is also what Romans 6: 1 – 18 “-----we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.-----“ talks about so many generations later in relationship to Jesus and Baptism.
July 26th, 2013, 5:48 am #2
Continued from Above /\
The payment of death for mankinds sin was paid by Jesus innocent blood just as the innocent lamb paid the price for Israels salvation from death in Egypt. Their new life did not begin until they emerged from the water to then be in position to be in a covenant relationship with God. Salvation, Baptism, Relationship is the pattern shown to us since the beginning of scripture. So as this ties back to Nicodemus, Jesus tells him that he is not to count on the flesh to be his ticket into the Kingdom of God but count on the Spiritual birth like Jesus to be able to enter into the Kingdom of God. The confirmation of this is in verse 8 when Jesus says, “the wind bloweth where it listeth” ----“canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither is goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit”.
Again the Jews considered themselves the sole guarantees of the Kingdom of God but Jesus is saying to him something much similar to what John the Immerser said previously. Matthew 3: 9 “ And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Jesus is telling Nicodemus that the Spirit of God works upon the hearts of all men regardless of their circumcised relation to Abraham because God counted Abraham faithful while he was uncircumcised.
As is reiterated for us by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapters 3 & 4: “10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
It is this information that Jesus is relating to Nicodemus and it has caused his head to spin, leaving him to ask one simple question.
John 3: “9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?”
I love the answer Jesus gives him because it speaks of the expectation that God (Jesus) had in the Jews understanding what they have as a nation experienced.
John 3: “10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
Jesus expected that with all of the things Israel has experienced with, through, and by God and Nicodemus being a leader of the Jews he should understand the value that Faith plays in Gods redemptive process regardless of nationality. Remember Ruth the Moabitess, Rahab the Caananite, Caleb the Edomite all were counted within the Household of Faith even though they were not of Israel. Nicodemus is expected by Jesus to know understand and be teaching these things and not relying on the relationship of the flesh to be their security but instead the relationship of the Spirit which comes through Faith in Jesus the Christ.
Jesus then carries on with Nicodemus in verses 11 – 18 further explaining that which he should already have an understanding of, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This is the message that the chosen covenanted people; the Jews, were supposed to be teaching the lost people of the world through their national relationship with God. It is the same message we as the chosen covenanted people; the Church, are to be spreading as well. Nothing has changed for God He will get His glory.
Written by me
Last edited by cbut1; July 26th, 2013 at 7:23 am. Reason: Forgot to bold one section
July 26th, 2013, 6:47 am #3
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What an excellent post cbut1. It's no wonder you're a minister. You've really connected some dots here.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
When I grow up, I want to be just like you. Until then, I'm just a simple man, cruising through this crazy world with a mustard seed in his pocket and loving the Lord with all his heart.Friendly Neighborhood...Smyrnaman
July 26th, 2013, 7:17 am #4
July 26th, 2013, 8:14 am #5
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'He's a Pharisee so we know he's a bad guy'?
It would be so nice if our prejudices and misconceptions were based on something more than a children's rhyme that is based on our prejudices and misconceptions.
Better still would be if we gave up our prejudices and misconceptions for the truth. The above is akin to saying all Baptists are just like fred phelps.
July 26th, 2013, 8:55 am #6
I've always looked at the story this way: Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because he didn't want to be seen. It doesn't seem to me that it was an act of exceptional courage or integrity, as he used the night as cover for the meeting. But it was an act of faith: he believed the Nazarene had something worth listening to even if his colleagues didn't believe it.
Nicodemus begins with the normal, formal, niceties, or flattery if you will: "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 knows why Nicodemus is there, and He wastes no time to cut to the chase: "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."
July 26th, 2013, 11:47 am #7
The story of the rich young man is one of my favorites. Picking it apart in a Bible Study class brought out some details I hadn't considered.
This young man comes RUNNING. He THROWS himself at the feet of Jesus, enthusiastically addressing him as GOOD!
Today if we saw someone acting this way with a person who was becoming well-known, we would think, "fan" or "groupie."
We are also told that just looking at the man, Jesus loved him. Such a simple statement, easily passed over because Jesus loves everyone. However, in the context of this story, it seems that these two men felt an immediate connection with each other.
Notice how Jesus handled the situation. Instead of basking (even modestly) in the fact he had a charismatic manner that drew people to him and that he came across as a truly good person, he backs away from this praise, and redirects the young man's enthusiasm. (Maybe Jesus is ruefully thinking, My homily focused and emphasized the goodness of God, and all people are going away with is that I am a good teacher?!?)
Jesus has a point he wants to make, and watch how he does it. He runs through a list of what the Commandments tell us not to do.
cbut1, while you see the young man as now lying, I see something entirely different. I think Jesus is aware that the young man has not killed, committed adultery, stolen, defrauded, or was ever a false witness. The young man confirms this--he says he has kept all these commandments.
Jesus then points out what is lacking. The young man has not done a lot of things--well and good...but on the other hand, what has he actually done? He is in the position to help the poor, but has he done this?
Someone in our class posed this question: Should we take away the impression that Jesus meant for the young man to sell and give away all his possessions and join him within the week?
This prompted thoughts that Jesus was giving him a much longer assignment. "Go work with the poor, discover their needs, help them. DO something. Then, when you have learned what to do (instead of what not to do), come follow me. That is the way to enter the Kingdom."
July 26th, 2013, 4:38 pm #8
I did not say I thought the young man was lying, I said that Jesus accepted his answer as truthfull and loved him for it, but when it came down to the humble submission portion he couldn't do it. At least not at that time perhaps one day he did we do not know we are never given that answer.
July 26th, 2013, 5:13 pm #9
July 26th, 2013, 6:04 pm #10
This is an interesting thread Cbut1, I don't remember seeing this topic discussed in it's own thread.
John 3: 1 "Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."
Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?"
Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus said to him, "how can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? "Very truly, I tell you we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.
If I told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life." "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life."
Some thoughts to ruminate on.
John the Baptist had come announcing that the kingdom of God was near. He called for repentance and baptism as a public commitment to that kingdom. He did not call it a new birth. The Jews were familiar with baptism because Gentiles who became Jewish proselytes committed themselves by a ceremony of baptism. This signified their entrance into the hopes and claims of fleshly, national Israel.
John preached/proclaimed the nearness of the kingdom, and also pointed to the one who would come after him. John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God. Andrew went to Peter saying "We have found the Messiah!" Philip declared that they had found the one whom Moses and the prophets wrote about. Nathanael answered Jesus, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
Nicodemus hears these rumors about the Messiah, the king, and the kingdom. He comes to Jesus. As a ruler he would have special interest because he might be given some seat of power in the restored kingdom. Jesus and Nicodemus may have talked at length, but the recorded conversation is abrupt.
Jesus explains to him that "what is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit."
If the approaching kingdom were a restoration of the nationalistic kingdom of Israel, Nicodemus' citizenship in it would be assured, but Jesus was speaking of a spiritual kingdom. Nicodemus had to abandon Jewish nationalism with its hope and expectation and be proselyted into a different kingdom.
Being a Jewish ruler would not give him any special prerogatives in the kingdom of God. The claims of national Israel, being born an Israelite was fully visible.
The question "what must I do to be saved?" was not the topic of the conversation. Nicodemus was already a devout Pharisee, but Jesus chided him for his lack of understanding and slowness in believing. Jesus did not reprimand him for any sin or unrighteousness. If Nicodemus had died, he would have become one of those under the law that Christ redeemed. Gal. 4:4
This passage has been used to support the necessity of baptism, but that would be giving it a meaning based upon later revelation on the subject.
Years later, Paul alludes to this metaphor in speaking of our transition from any fleshly hopes to the spiritual. "He delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." Col. 1:13. In the birth of water and the Spirit, our allegiance from the fleshly to the spiritual is committed.
Those today who are still hoping for places in a restored nationalistic kingdom of Israel should be reminded: "What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit."
July 27th, 2013, 12:19 am #11
July 27th, 2013, 12:41 pm #12
July 27th, 2013, 10:42 pm #13
July 27th, 2013, 11:32 pm #14
Keep in mind how scripture tends to lump together the Scribes and Pharisees. It was the Scribes who devoted their lives to determining how the Law applied to everyday life. The Law said, "Do not carry burdens on the Sabbath." The Scribes decided what constituted a burden, down to the point of how much honey constituted a burden. The Pharisees then worked to follow these guidelines. It was a very strict discipline they subjected themselves to.
Second, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Sure, one perspective is that with night came a cloak of secrecy. However, Rabbis recommended a man study at night when he was undisturbed.
Did Nicodemus meet with Jesus at night out of secrecy--or, is John conveying the two men met when they could converse without being disturbed? In either case, we see Nicodemus as a man who very much desired to speak with Jesus--and that Jesus willingly made time for him.
July 27th, 2013, 11:52 pm #15
The idea of New Birth was commonly known among the Jews of Jesus' day. Jesus and Nicodemus were discussing this. Nicodemus' question is a challenge: Can people truly change? It would actually be easier to return to the womb and be born again than to bring about change in the life one is already living. How can this change take place? Nicodemus' second challenge is how anyone can know that significant change has taken place.
Nicodemus is not a shallow fellow. He has great depth and asks searching questions. Paul, I think would have understood: "For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want." (Romans 7:19)