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From Respect to Rebirth

John 3:1-3
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 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.’ Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ (NIVUK)

Nicodemus is a key character in John’s Gospel.  Although he was a leading Pharisee, and a member of the 72 strong Sanhedrin (the religious ruling council) which agreed to put Jesus to death, this passage shows him to be a seeker of the truth.  In John 7:25-52, Nicodemus condemned the assumption of guilt without a fair trial; and in John 19:38-42, Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea to embalm and bury Jesus’ body.  We do not know anything more about him, but John uses him as an example of people who move from being a timid and confused seeker to a bold and generous disciple.

Perhaps, as a senior cleric, he was embarrassed to be seen with Jesus during the day; so he came at night to the place where Jesus was staying.  The interview started respectfully, with Nicodemus agreeing that Jesus was a wise Biblical teacher, who had God’s authority and who performed genuine miracles.  Maybe it was Eastern social flattery, but what he said was true.  However, Jesus dispensed with the social niceties and came straight to the purpose of His incarnation: to make it possible for people to enter His Kingdom by being ‘born again’.

Religious people are often good at playing religious games.  Offering respect but keeping at a distance; flattering but not embracing the ministry being offered.  Sometimes, when religion is encrusted by rules and hierarchies, people assume that in order to be in favour with God they must first prove that they are better than most in order to be admitted to the ‘club’.  Jesus’ comment cuts through all that: “You must be born again!” (John 3:7).  

The gospel is much simpler than many think.  God’s Kingdom is a family, sharing the same spiritual nature as Father God Himself.  The only way in, is to be born into it!  In the same way that a human father’s nature is bound into the new-born child, so God’s nature is implanted into our hearts as we believe in Jesus.  When we receive Him (John 1:12-13), we are ‘born again’ the Holy Spirit comes to live in us (2 Thessalonians 2:13).  Share www.crosscheck.org.uk with some friends and help them to see how they can also be born again.

Father God. Thank You for the gospel which does not demand a better performance from my life in order to start my life with You, but to put my trust in Jesus and be born again. Forgive me when I make my faith too complicated for others to understand, or when I have failed to explain the gospel in its simplicity. Please help me to be so confident of my family relationship with You, that I will want to invite all my friends to hear about Jesus the Saviour, and how to be born again. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams