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Education Without Understanding

John 3:9-12
‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things? 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. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? (NIVUK)

Nicodemus had come to quiz Jesus on theology (John 1:1-8), but it soon became clear that he did not understand Jesus’ answers.  This top theologian had no grasp of what it meant to be ‘born again’.  Nicodemus understood religious rules but had no concept of God’s grace.  His learning was academic, but his understanding was not informed by God’s Holy Spirit.  Even the simple analogy of God’s sovereignty over the wind (the word for ‘Spirit’ is the same in John 3:8) was impossible for him to comprehend.

Although Nicodemus was listening to Jesus, he could not hear what He was saying.  The reason was that he was filtering what Jesus said through the grid of his own religious understanding, but he was deaf to the voice of God’s Spirit.  As 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”  However, Nicodemus was willing to listen to Jesus; and after the crucifixion he was willing to be publically identified with Jesus, helping to take His body to be buried in the tomb (John 19:38-40).

Then Jesus made an apparently simple comment, “… we speak of what we know …”.  Who were the ‘we’?  Apart from Jesus, it could not have been the disciples - for they did not understand Jesus’ ministry themselves (John 12:16).  When Jesus said ‘we’, He was referring to Himself and Father God.  Jesus said nothing except what the Father told Him (John 12:50).  Everything Jesus did and said was in unity with the Father (John 10:30).  Jesus spoke with all the authority of the Godhead about heavenly things.  And today, those who welcome Jesus find that both the Father and the Son have made their home in their hearts (John 14:23) by the Spirit.  

Many people do not know how to find God or even hear from Him.  The story of Nicodemus is helpful.  Go straight to Jesus.  Start with Him - read what He said and read about what He did.  The gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are the best place for your friends and colleagues to begin to read about Jesus.  As they do, those who are seeking Him will learn how to recognise God’s voice.  Indeed, there is no other way according to Jesus: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)  So when people ask you about your faith and want to find out more, encourage them to read about Jesus!

Living Lord. Thank You for giving us Jesus, and the record of His life and teaching, so that we might get to know You. Forgive me for not being clear enough about the pivotal importance of Jesus, and I am sorry when I have failed to share the Bible’s accounts of His life and teaching with others. Please help me to be bolder to invite those I live and work with to read the Bible with an open mind and heart. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams