Message 3: Jesus and Nicodemus, Ruler of the Jews
Scripture Lesson-John 3:1-10
January 11, 1945
by John N. C. Hiebert
In our Scripture lesson tonight we find Jesus, who is pictured to us in John's Gospel especially as the Son of God, face to face with a learned, orthodox Jewish Pharisee. This Pharisee, Nicodemus by name, came to Jesus by night, perhaps for fear of the other Jews, or perhaps for the purpose of finding Jesus at a time when he would be alone and would have time for a heart to heart talk. For us it is enough to know that the two were alone. Nicodemus recognized that Jesus was a great teacher and addresses Him with the words, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God." Before the conversation ended, Jesus pointed out to this learned Pharisee that it was not enough for him to know that He, namely Jesus, was come from God; he should know something even more important than this face, true as it was. He should know all about the greatest of all Christian experiences, he as a teacher of the Jews and a leader of the people should know what it meant to be born again. He should know all about the New Birth. But Jesus had to turn to him and say, "Art thou a master of Israel and knowest not these things?"
I am sure that I am speaking to many friends tonight who are just where Nicodemus was that night. They are perfectly sincere in their searching for truth. They are earnest in this search. They have seen in Jesus a teacher come from God and recognize that Jesus never had an equal as a teacher of truth. Yet they, like Nicodemus, do not know what it means to be born again. Together with Nicodemus they would say tonight "How can these things be?" There may be those who have a position in some church just as high as that which Nicodemus had among the Jews that would have to say that. My friend, let me ask you in all sincerity tonight, "Do you know what it means to be born again?" Or must Jesus point at you and say, "Art thou a leader in this church, art thou a teacher of that Sunday School class, art thou a director of the choir of the church, art thou a deacon in the church, and knowest not these things?" Jesus had to say that to Nicodemus. Jesus was never hesitant to speak the plain truth regardless of how that truth hurt. He did not fear any man. He would speak the plain truth to you tonight so listen to it as it comes from the written record direct to your heart. This is His word to you just as much as it was to Nicodemus. This is not Ancient History, this is God's living word, this is Christ's message to your heart.
In the few minutes at our disposal tonight follow the Lord's teaching on the great subject of the New Birth and notice with me first its glorious reality and then its absolute necessity and finally its blessed possibility.
I. Its Reality.
To show to Nicodemus that the experience of a spiritual rebirth was a very real experience, Jesus used several plain illustrations. He said that the New Birth was like the wind. Here are His words. "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 everyone who is born of the Spirit." It is true that there is something mysterious about the wind but there is no question about the reality of it. The wind blows and we know that it blows. We see its power, its effect; it is real. My friend, the experience of the New Birth is just as real. We know it transforms lives and it changes hearts. Again and again we have seen its power manifest in changed lives. It is real.
The second picture Jesus uses to show how absolutely real this experience is, is that of a physical birth. Here again we are face to face with one of the greatest mysteries in the world, the birth of a new child, the mystery of life. We know a great deal about cell division and its phases, but we cannot explain the mystery of life. Yet we cannot deny the reality of life, the reality of the birth of a child, the reality of our own birth. Jesus said, "That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." The one is just as real as the other. My friend, I can know that I am spiritually alive just as positively as I can know that I am physically alive. I can know that I have been born again, born of God, just as surely as I can know that I have been born physically. And so can you.
My dear friend, upon the record before us, let me assure you that the New Birth is a glorious reality. Let me ask you, is it a reality to you? I should be and it can be.
II. The Necessity of the New Birth
Jesus speaks just as clearly about the necessity of the New Birth to Nicodemus as He speaks of its reality. Hear His word on this point, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye Must be born again." There is no doubt in that word. "Ye Must be born again." He does not say that it would be very well if we were born again or that it would be quite advisable, but He says, "Ye must be born again." There is absolutely no other way into the kingdom of God but by the New Birth. Man is too sinful to get into this holy kingdom without a complete new birth. He is not fit to enter there as he is. To enter into the kingdom of heaven you must have a heavenly nature. To enter into the kingdom of God you must be a partaker of God's nature. This is given to every one who is born again, to every one who is born of the spirit of God. Every other effort fails here. Listen to this, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, not uncircumcision, but a new creature." Gal. 6:15. The Apostle Paul knew of what he was speaking when he wrote that. He had tried everything else, like Nicodemus, for he too had been a religious Pharisee. He had all the form of religion a man could put on. He was earnest, he was zealous, but until he met Christ he had not been born again. Paul had to have that experience. Jesus said of Nicodemus he had to have it. If you were face to face with Jesus tonight He would point directly at you and say to you, "Ye must be born again."
III. Its Possibility
Jesus never demanded anything that was not possible. With the requirement there came the provision. Jesus showed Nicodemus how a man could be born a second time, how he could be born spiritually and become partaker of life from God. Note His word, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Water is repeatedly used as a figure of the Word of God in Scripture. Listen to 1 Peter 1:23. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." Thus a man can be born again by receiving the Word of God and by the mighty work of the Spirit of God. Believe God's promises to a sinner, my friend, receive His word into your heart, and the Spirit of God will make you a new creature.
Before closing His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus said these wonderful words, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life." vs. 16. Receive that promise, that Word of God, take it by faith into your heart, and you will be born again, you will be born of the water and of the Spirit. No greater experience can come to any mortal man than that, my friend. If you are just where Nicodemus, this ruler of the Jews, was long ago, and if you like Nicodemus know nothing about the glorious reality of the New Birth, let this be the night when you experience this glorious spiritual birth and become a son of the heavenly Father.
God bless you.