Nicodemus Secret Meeting with Jesus
On the Kingdom of God
By Pastor Nick Bibile
We have seen the theological aspect of born again but today I am going to show you the true context of the meeting with Nicodemus. We will also learn how to study the Bible in context, not losing it’s meaning. I hear many pastors who teach scripture by scripture but it is sad they do not give the whole meaning in context. They massacre the scriptures with their own meanings, this is very sad indeed. Who is Nicodemus? Why did he meet Jesus? What was in the mind of Nicodemus? What was the subject? Why is it only to Nicodemus Jesus told him of ‘born again’? Was Nicodemus converted?
Who is Nicodemus?
Joh 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrim. What is Sanhedrim? They were the legislative body of Israel. They knew the law and were devout Jews of that day. Nicodemus was a man of high rank and a respectable member of the Sanhedrim. He was a ruler of the Jews, a counselor, called a “master in Israel.” He was an expositor of the Jewish law. The Jewish Talmud believes, this could be Nicodemus ben Gurion was a wealthy Jew who lived in Jerusalem in the first century. He is widely believed to be identical to the Nicodemus mentioned in the Gospel of John.
Now we see Nicodemus as a spiritual giant, an expert of the Biblical law. On the other hand we see Jesus, a humble Jew, born to a poor family. His followers, poor ordinary people of the same class in society as himself. Jesus drew people to himself as he performed mighty miracles, the public attention was on him as many regarded him as a divine messenger of God. Many times the Pharisees tried to trap him but he was able to show superior knowledge and gave answers to the Pharisees where they blushed.
Now we see a show between two great spiritual giants, meeting head to head, Nicodemus and Jesus. This was an ancient setting, there was no CNN, or any TV reporters, if there were hi-tech and media during that day, I am sure the news would leak and it would be the headlines of the Newspapers. We can imagine the headlines as some would say, “Nicodemus slips into the darkness to meet Jesus, Nicodemus meets head to head with Jesus, two spiritual giants wrestle in a secret room, what did they talk?”
Why did Nicodemus meet Jesus and what was in his mind? Israel were under foreign domination of Rome, they were not a free sovereign country as they were under the yoke of Rome, they were looking for freedom. The devout Jews were looking for a deliverer, the Messiah who will come and deliver them from the foreign yoke of the Romans. They were not looking for a spiritual savior, not looking for personal salvation from their guilt but were looking for the national deliverance from the foreign yoke of Rome.
Unlike the other Pharisees Nicodemus had come to the conclusion of Jesus, this young Nazarene was divinely commissioned by God and he cannot wait to have a private personal conversation with Jesus without any interruptions. And what was the subject he had in mind? “The Kingdom of God.” So from fear of involving himself in danger from his fellow Pharisees or from the Roman government, he wanted to have the interview with Jesus a private as possible and came to Jesus by night.
Unlike other Pharisees he paid respect to Jesus as called Jesus “Rabbi” meaning teacher and he was convinced that Jesus was a divine messenger of God as he said, “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)
Jesus knew what was in man and often he answered men’s thoughts rather than their words. He knew what was exactly in Nicodemus mind and why he came. Jesus did not flatter himself as he is the divine messenger of God, he did not tell Nicodemus, “I am so happy that you are not like other Pharisees you know that I am from God.” Jesus know the subject that was in Nicodemus mind. The subject was the kingdom of God. Now Jesus is going to show that Nicodemus was completely wrong on this subject. Jesus ignored what he said and replied to what was in his mind.
Jesus answered him, “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.” (John 3:3)
Nicodemus and the Jews were used to the word, ‘new birth.’ When a heathen, gentile is admitted to the commonwealth of Israel, when this heathen embraced Judaism he underwent a new birth. When a Jew repeated a word twice as Jesus said, verily, verily, means, truly, truly, it means absolutely true. But look very carefully at the words of Jesus as he said, “Except a man,” This is the key to the interpretation. If Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless a Gentile be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” Then Nicodemus would perfectly understand and agree with Jesus.
But Jesus said, “Except a man,” meaning any man, every man, a Gentile, as well as a Jew. Our Lord is turns his attention to the nature and the necessity of repentance.
Nicodemus thought, the Jews were descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the children of the kingdom. Then Nicodemus said to Jesus:
How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? (John 3:4)
Here we see the difference, Jesus is talking spiritual and Nicodemus is taking it literally. It seems that Nicodemus acts so stupid before Jesus as he cannot comprehend our Lord’s figurative language. Here Nicodemus is thinking they are all the children of the kingdom. This is where many false doctrines taught from the pulpit as many interpret figurative language of the Bible into literal language. These are pulpit crimes.
Joh 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.
Jesus repeats again, “Except a man” he did not say, “Unless a Gentile be born again” but the meaning of “Except a man” is Gentile and Jew. Jews too must be born again to enter into the kingdom of God. But to Nicodemus this new birth seems to be very strange, how can a grown up man be born of his mother again?
Note Jesus gives some clues to Nicodemus saying he need to be born of water and of he Spirit. Look at the Old Testament.
Ezek 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Jesus is making more simple as he said.
Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Flesh is the human nature, our human nature is depraved, fallen nature under Adam. Depraved man can have a son only in his likeness but man must become God’s son to enter God’s kingdom.
Nicodemus is speechless, if you can only see his face, mouth opened but have no words to reply. Then Jesus said to him “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (Joh 3:7)
Jews are the descendents of Abraham but you must be spiritually born again. The Jewish people are born of the flesh, born of blood, they came from the fleshly descendents of Abraham but need to have a spiritual birth to enter into God’s kingdom.
Joh 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom.
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
We hear the wind but it’s invisible, we see the effects of the wind and the movements of the wind is regulated by laws which we have no control, in the same way, our flesh does not have control over a spiritual birth, we don’t see how it happens but we see the effects of the born again person, it is a supernatural act of God alone.
Now Nicodemus still very confused, utterly incapable of reconciling these statements of our Lord, said, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9)
Our Lord replied, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10)
Jesus is telling him, you are the teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? What he is saying is, if you have studied the Old Testament scriptures you might have known these things, that an internal change is necessary. Probably our Lord is referring to the scriptures we read in Ezekiel 36:25-27.
Jesus continued by telling Nicodemus:
Joh 3:11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
Our Savior confirms to Nicodemus of the truth he has spoken. He gently but powerfully exposed Nicodemus inconsistency. Jesus is basically telling Nicodemus, you said I am a teacher that came from God, you admit John the Baptist to be a prophet and yet we tell you what we know to be true.
John 3:12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
The doctrine of the kingdom of God is remote as heaven from earth. Carnal man, the fleshly man cannot understand the spiritual things. Carnal men blunder over the first words of spiritual knowledge as Nicodemus did, or like the woman of Samaria, who, when she was told of living water, could not understand the spiritual truth.
1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The carnal man must undergo an inward change, which will result of a change of mind, change of heart and change of will, he should become a spiritual man to receive the spiritual Savior, salvation is not earthly but a spiritual salvation.
2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Jesus goes on to tell Nicodemus:
Joh 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Nicodemus had acknowledged Christ to he a teacher come from God, our Lord is telling him that he was the only teacher of heavenly things, as he is the only person who came from heaven from the bosom of the Father.
Joh 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Moses told the Israelites:
12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?
No man could go up to heaven, and learn the mysteries of God, and of the kingdom of heaven, and return and return to earth to tell others he learned of the kingdom of heaven, but only the Son of Man, ( a name borrowed from the Old Testament indicating of the Messiah, Christ) can reveal heavenly things. See John 3:12; Lord is talking on heavenly things – telling Nicodemus the true teachings of the kingdom of heaven. Messiah came to deliver those who believe on him from this earthly kingdom to the kingdom of heaven.
John 18:33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
John 18: 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.
Now what did the Jews believe on the kingdom of heaven, what was the opinion of Nicodemus of the kingdom of heaven. Here is what they believed.
They believed that the Messiah would come from the line of king David. David was lifted up to his throne as the king of Israel and so does the Messiah, the Christ will be lifted up like David and exalted to his glorious throne. Then the Jewish people will be delivered from the slavery of the Gentiles and raised to dignity, wealth and power. For Jehovah God loves his peculiar people the descendents of Abraham the Jewish people, Jehovah God will give his Son, the Messiah to the Jewish people as the Messiah will be their deliverer and ruler, he will destroy the Gentile nations and all Israelites will enjoy the blessings of his reign, all Gentiles who will not submit to his rule shall be destroyed.
But the Jews failed to see the true doctrine of the kingdom of God. The truth is that the Messiah will be lifted up, but not how king David was exalted to the throne but as the brazen serpent was lifted high on a pole. The purpose was that men will not perish but have spiritual salvation, have eternal life.
Joh 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
You do not have to be a Jew to obtain this salvation but also Gentiles too can obtain this salvation.
Joh 3:16 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 so loved not only the Israelite Jews but also the Gentiles, that he gave his Son. Whoever trust in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Whosoever believes in him is a true Christian, an elect of God, whether Jew or Gentile.
For God did not send his Son to destroy the Gentile nations. Jesus is telling Nicodemus you had it all wrong. But to be the Savior of the world.
Joh 4:42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.
It was the men of Samaritans and not the Jews who said of Christ that he is the Savior of the world. The Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans as they were of the world and the Messiah is coming only to the Jews. Messiah is not a national deliverer of the Jews but a spiritual deliverer of the world. So Nicodemus again you are wrong, God did not send his Son to destroy the Gentile nations but to save them from their sins. Jesus gave the great commission to preach the gospel to all nations, beginning from the book of Acts the gospel began to go forward with power to the Gentiles.
Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
But all who do not believe the truth, the Jews and Gentiles both shall be excluded from blessings of the spiritual kingdom of God.
Joh 3:18 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.
There are no more questions from Nicodemus, this memorable third chapter concerning Nicodemus, shows us how that enquiring master of Israel came to believe in him. The Lord opened Nicodemus heart for him to understand these spiritual truths, he would have understood by now, even a Jew must be born again to enter into God’s kingdom. By now he understood that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the spiritual deliverer of the Jews and of the Gentiles.
Later on we see Nicodemus defended our Lord Jesus against his own fellow Pharisees.
John 7:50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Nicodemus was there with Joseph of Arimathea, who was a counsellor, one of the Jewish Sanhedrim at the burial of Jesus.
John 19:38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
Nicodemus was a rich man, he came in the night time to have a secret meeting with Jesus. Oh what a conversion, Nicodemus had a spiritual delight that night, he was converted as he went away as a disciple of Christ Jesus as his greatest difficulties, confusion of the Kingdom of God was cleared by the Almighty Grace of God. We can see his love to the Lord here, he took the risk of taking the body of Jesus and showed his love to his Master.
It is the Holy Spirit that comes upon a person and transform that person into a new creature, then his ignorance is removed, his affections are changed, his understanding is enlightened, his free will changed to the will of God, his desires are refined, his life is changed. He is a new born Christian into the Kingdom of God, to whom all things have become new. This change is compared in Scripture to the resurrection from the dead, to a creation, and to a new birth. This takes place in every man who becomes a partaker of the free grace of God. “Ye must be born again,” said Christ to Nicodemus, my question to you is, may be you have a lot of religion like Nicodemus, you are a devoted religious person like Nicodemus but you are lost. Just like Nicodemus you trusted in your tradition, you religion instead of the scriptures, just like Nicodemus you saw only the literal things of God but never saw the spiritual side of it, Nicodemus was converted from false concept of religion to a new creature in Christ Jesus, I pray that you too will put your pride down and meet the Lord secretly in the prayer closet and repent of your false views of traditions taught by men and submit at the feet of Jesus for your spiritual salvation.