Jesus is Calling You
Has there been a stirring in your heart that you don’t understand?
Is there something in you that has been nagging at you to find out more about God?
Are you interested in Jesus and feel like He has something to offer to you, but don’t understand why?
You are not alone. Those feelings are the Holy Spirit working on you. It is His job to draw people to Christ. He works in the world calling people away from sin and death and to the only One who can save, Jesus. He has done the same thing for millions of others for the past 2000 years now.
But what do you do when you feel that calling and want to respond but don’t know how? When you get enough of a glimpse of Jesus to want to come to Him, but don’t know a thing about Christianity? When you like what you know about Jesus, but still have doubts?
Jesus says just come. Run to Him as we are. Regardless of how much we understand, how good we think we are and what we are leaving, go to Jesus and He will give us what we need. Christianity is all about how great Jesus is, not about our worthiness.
All Have Sinned
The truth is that none of us is ever prepared to get face to face with Jesus. Sinful man meeting sinless God is an understandably daunting appointment. If it were up to us the meeting would end terribly. But thankfully, Jesus promises to make it work. He says trust me and “Come and I will give you rest!”.
Nicodemus was a hugely impressive guy who lived at the time of Jesus. He had everything going for him. Yet, when he comes to Jesus, Nicodemus gets it all wrong. He is confused. His words are so conflicted we wonder what he is even doing there talking with Jesus. He doesn’t seem to know who Jesus is, why would He ask Him questions only God can answer? Then we remember it is the Holy Spirit that drew him to Jesus. Nicodemus doesn’t have his theology right but he knows to ask Jesus. It is up to Jesus to teach him from there.
Nick at Night
Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of night. Nighttime was different back then. There were no streetlights or electric bulbs so most of the world shut down as soon as the sun set. Night was associated with intrigue and mystery. Darkness is when you did things that you wanted to keep secret. It has been speculated that Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night because he doesn’t want anyone to know he is talking with Jesus. He is interested in Jesus and the Holy Spirit is calling him to Jesus, but Nicodemus doesn’t want to lose all he has for Jesus, not yet, at least. He knows there is something good about Jesus and wants to get closer, but he doesn’t yet understand his need for a Savior.
Though we don’t know a lot about Nicodemus, what we do know is that he had quite the resume. He is a Pharisee. This means he is a member of a Jewish sect that was considered the super-duper religious Jews of that day. They were the Jewish religious commandos. They tried as hard as they could to keep every portion of the Law of Moses and to look appropriately pious while doing it. They gave to the poor, they did dramatic prayers so that everyone watched and looked down on everyone around them. Jesus generally holds them in great disdain because of their pride and hypocrisy. Everyone else in Israel thought the Pharisees were awesome. They were believed to be the truly chosen of the chosen people. Nicodemus was a prominent Pharisee so he was very well known. He would have had the best seats at banquets, crowds would part to allow him through and people would want him to bless their baby. He was a big deal on this account alone. It was said if there were only two people allowed in heaven by God, one of them would be a Pharisee.
Nicodemus was also a ruler of the people. He was a member of the ruling council of Israel that governed the life of the Israelites, the Sanhedrin. 70 of the most important men were chosen to be part of the Council from all of the men of Israel. What they said was law. They were the chosen few from the nation that God called His Children. We don’t know whether he was a good ruler, but Nicodemus was certainly powerful and ran with a very elite crowd. A Pharisee who was also on the Sanhedrin would have been accorded even more honor.
Nicodemus also was an influential teacher of the Jewish faith. Jesus calls him “the teacher of Israel” when talking with him. Not “a teacher” but “the teacher” which indicates a prominence held by very few throughout the history of the Nation. In this capacity, he would have been extraordinarily well trained in the Old Testament Scriptures and the history of his people. In a country that valued rabbis, teachers and those instructors were focused on teaching the Bible, Nicodemus appeared to have few rivals. He was the best Old Testament scholar around.
Nicodemus later brings 100 pounds of spices to the tomb of Jesus for His burial. Such a large amount would have been hugely expensive, so the evidence indicated he was also rich.
Very impressive resume Nicodemus presents to Jesus, right? He comes to Jesus with way more attributes than most of us bring to the table. He is rich, smart, knows his Bible inside and out and was respected by everyone. He also was a leader among God’s own people. Can you get any more impressive? Can anyone be more prepared to meet the Jewish Messiah? Nicodemus’ life was about studying and teaching the very Scriptures that testified to Jesus. Despite all this pedigree and preparation, when Nicodemus meets Jesus guess what happens?
Nicodemus was Eminently Qualified and Totally Lost
The amazingly qualified Nicodemus comes to Jesus and is completely unprepared. It is obvious that he is confused by Jesus. He doesn’t even know the right questions to ask, much less have the answers. Nicodemus is interested in learning from Jesus and sets aside time to do so. This is great. But when they meet it is like he and Jesus are having two completely different conversations. Nicodemus has a glimpse of the truth that his Savior is standing right in front of him, but it is only a very small portion:
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “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.”
Seems straightforward, right? Nicodemus may have been buttering Jesus up a bit calling Him “Teacher”. This may be a sign of respect. He does acknowledge very important aspects about Jesus: that He is a teacher, that He is from God and that God is with Him. It is a good start, but the statement also is greatly lacking in wisdom.
Jesus is not just a teacher, He is Lord and Savior. Nicodemus hasn’t gotten there yet. Until he does, he will remain stuck in his sins and trespasses. Jesus sees this and responds to Nicodemus pointedly attempting to get him to the real issue at hand:
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus came to Jesus in all his finery and with all of his cultural baggage. He was a Jew and a Pharisee. They were absolutely certain that they were the chosen people. They had no doubt that they were be blessed by God on a straight trip to heaven. He may have questions about Jesus’ miracles and the signs that he had heard about, but Nicodemus appears to have no idea that he needed to be saved by Jesus. He thought since he was a Child of Abraham he did not need to be saved. There was a cultural teaching at the time that Abraham stood by the gates of Hell watching the people going in to make sure none of his children went in by mistake. It was being born a Jew that saved people according to Nicodemus. Nicodemus is obviously confused in his response:
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
You Must Be Born Again
Nicodemus is one who is well respected in the Nation of Israel. Everyone listened when He spoke. As a Pharisee and as a leader, he was sure of his own holiness, his opinions and his knowledge of the Scriptures. Yet, it is obvious that he has no idea that Jesus is the Messiah and God. It is also clear that he has no idea of his own standing relative to Jesus. Despite what would have been fancy robes and a feeling of great self-worth, Nicodemus is a filthy sinner standing before the Most High God. He needs to be born again in order to enter into the Kingdom. He desperately needs to be saved by Jesus and he doesn’t know it. Rather, it appears that he wants to engage Jesus in a theological discussion, one Rabbi to another. For more on the need to be Born Again, What Does It Mean to Be Born Again and the Bible Verses Supporting, click these links.
Jesus’ patient with Nicodemus testifies to the beauty and love of Jesus as our Savior and Mediator. Jesus doesn’t strike down Nicodemus for his ignorance. He doesn’t punish Nicodemus for his many sins. He doesn’t reject Nicodemus like Nicodemus has been rejecting Jesus up to this point. Do we realize that God is standing in front of Nicodemus and he is not falling on his face in worship? Jesus does none of these things. Rather, Jesus reaches across the divide between the divine and the earthly and patiently teaches Nicodemus what he needs to know in order to gain eternal life. If we continue in the passage, Jesus even goes back to Moses in the Old Testament and shows how the Serpent on the Pole in the Book of Numbers points to Jesus. He does so without anger, judgment or condemnation.
Nicodemus should have known all this as “the teacher of Israel”.
This is what the Old Testament was for, to teach them about the Messiah to come. Nicodemus missed it because he is just a fallen man like you or I, despite his resume. As a result, Jesus’ mercy and grace are on full display when faced with Nicodemus’ confusion and reluctance.
No One Comes Ready to Fully Understand Jesus
No matter how qualified we appear on paper when we go to Jesus for the first time it will be a great mismatch. He is God, we are not. We may feel we have everything going for us. We may feel know absolutely nothing other than there is something special about Jesus. Regardless, because of the amazing love, mercy, and grace of Jesus, we are accepted. We are received with love and patience. Like Nicodemus, we are taught the things that we need to know in order to follow Jesus.
It is toward the very end of John’s Gospel that Nicodemus is mentioned for the third and last time. He helps Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus’ body for burial. The rich, famous, powerful Pharisee who came to Jesus in the darkness is obviously greatly changed. Where once he hid in the night, he now openly does a task that would have been seen as menial to the other Pharisees and Rulers. He gives a huge amount of valuable spices, his time and his service to the man they just Crucified. He is serving Jesus in a humble and open manner when it will likely cost him greatly. His life was greatly changed because he came to Jesus. His ignorance when he came couldn’t stop the work of the Lord in His life. He came and Jesus changed Nicodemus.
So if we are in doubt, come to Jesus. Feel confused or unqualified, come to Jesus. Know that we are a desperately wicked sinner with nothing to bring to the table, come to Jesus. He never says we have to be qualified.
He just says come and He will take it from there.
Love to all,
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