Meet Jesus 2, Nicodemus

Meet Jesus Series Sermon 2
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church
John 3:1-21
July 10, 2011

How many of you have ever met someone at night for the first time?

[Meeting Mr. Lacost]
Some of you know this, but on Saturday evening I usually come here to practice my sermon. Its usually after dark, and my habit is that, as I go from room to room, I only have the lights on in the room I’m in, and turn them off as I leave.  You can about track my progress from my office to the stage, then back just by watching the lights.  When Tiffani is here, every light in the building is on, but I just don’t like to have to run back thru and turn all the lights back off..

Last night, I became aware that I was being watched from outside.  As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed a car stopped outside.  By the time I got to the office, there was a knock on the office door... a very loud knock!  I opened the door and was introduced to Officer Lacost of the Herscher Police.  Seems he is new here, and thought the late night light activity a bit unusual, so stopped to investigate.  I explained who I was and what I was doing, but I could tell... he just wasn’t sure I was who I said I was and why I was here in the dark of night... until someone from the congregation stopped by with a question and greeted me by name. “Hi, Tyson, ....”  You could tell Officer Lacost relaxed noticeably, becoming confident I was not breaking the law.   And after the other person left we had a good visit and got to know each other a bit better.

Nicodemus met Jesus in a similar fashion some 2000 years ago.  He was a leader of the Jewish ruling council, a Pharisee.  One of his most important responsibilities was similar to that of a police officer in that he was to make sure that people upheld the rules. 

Nicodemus and his pharisee friends were all about the rules.  They believed in large part that being right with God hinged on being right ..., you know ..., following all of the rules.  Jesus and the Pharisees often did not see eye to eye.  Jesus was hated by many of this group, yet, Nicodemus was drawn to Him and wanted to meet Him to know more about who He was.

So, Nicodemus with this desire to meet Jesus came to see Him in private - under the cover of night.  Even though it might mean the end to his position of power and prestige with the ruling council if others found out, he had to know more.

Turn with me to John 3:1-21 beginning with John 3:1-4

Nicodemus says in verse 2, ‘We know, Jesus, that you are a teacher come from God.’ Jesus bluntly responds in verse 3 that, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

‘HOW???’  Nicodemus wonders whether a man can enter into his mother’s womb again and be born.

John 3:5-8

Jesus answers in verse 5–8 that he is talking about a spiritual birth and that unless you experience it, you will never enter the kingdom of God—you will never be reconciled to God, forgiven and on your way to heaven.

Then he adds that the Spirit of God is the one that causes the new birth, not man. And the Spirit is as free as the wind in the way he does it.

John 3:9-11

In verse 9, Nicodemus is still at a loss, he seems to be in the dark in more ways than ever and asks, “How can these things be?”

I believe here is what Nicodemus is saying and confused about. 

‘I have been following all the rules to this point in my life.  I thought being right made me right with God.  But Jesus is saying I must be reborn of the Spirit.  How can this be?’ 

Jesus seems to be puzzled by this in verse 10, that a teacher in Israel, a person very studied in the Bible, is so much in the dark about what really matters.  How could this teacher not understand?

‘Have you not read Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 31, or Ezekiel 11?  Have you not read them?  If you had then maybe you would understand that a person must be born by the spirit?’

Then he says in verse 11 that the problem Nicodemus has is that, even though he is hearing reliable testimony from Jesus and others who know the truth, he doesn’t “receive” or accept the testimony of Jesus.

He is not among the number described in John 1:12—“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

John 3:12

Then in verse 12, Jesus says in effect:

‘You keep asking me for deeper and higher explanations of the new birth. But a heart of unbelief, an unchanged heart, can’t understand the kinds of truth that I have to give you about the new birth.’

Here is what is happening. Nicodemus was caught up in all the rules of this world and how to look right, but Jesus is more concerned about heavenly matters of the heart.  He just couldn’t get it.  But Jesus didn’t give up on him.  By the way,  He won’t give up on you.

What is Jesus going to do with Nicodemus? What would you do? Is he going to say,

 ‘Well, since you don’t get it, Nicodemus, I won’t have any more to say to you? I am trying to talk to you about important matters of heaven, and you turn it into silly thoughts about going again into your mother’s womb again.  Come on man are you serious???  Come back after you have been born again, then maybe you will understand.’

That’s not what Jesus says or does. What he does is hugely important for us to see—important for our own faith.  It is especially important for those who have not met Jesus or been changed, and for those we desperately want to see born again and to know Jesus.  People you love.

How can we get them to see this new life in Jesus?  How do we get those people that are dead in sin to meet the Jesus that saves?  How do we get people that are blind and in the dark to see the light and life that comes only through Jesus?

What should WE say next?

John 3:13

Jesus made a shift in verse 13.  Before verse 13 He is talking like a teacher — He’s talking about the new birth like any born-again person might do.   With verse 13, He starts talking about Himself, not just as a teacher who tells people to be born again, but as the Son of Man who has come from heaven, who came to make it possible to be born again.

Before verse 13 Jesus is talking about the process of the new birth:

  • it’s spiritual,
  • it happens by the work of the Spirit,
  • it comes like the wind, and
  • you can’t explain it.

That really messed with Nicodemus’ head!  He wanted to know how this was possible.  So Jesus began to explain how this is possible for some to have a new birth through the Son of Man.

Before we move on, remember, Jesus has just said in verse 12,

 'I could give you heavenly explanations, but you can’t receive them.'

[Read John 3:13]

In other words, Jesus explains,

 ‘The reason I could give you heavenly explanations is that I have come down from heaven. No man has gone into heaven so that he can do what I do. I was in heaven with the Father, and I have come down. And now I am going tell you what I came to do.’

Then Jesus does something that seems strange at first.  He begins to explain what He came to do in a way that many of you will want to reject at first,  but He did it so that Nicodemus would be able to understand it.  But let me warn you ..., it is shocking. 

Let’s read  John 3:14-15

Jesus would be lifted up like a Snake?!

Comparing himself with a snake is shocking. Let’s go back and read the story that Jesus is referring to (Numbers 21:4-9).

Notice a few things:

  1. The serpent on the pole is not preventative. It is for bitten people.  The poison is in them, and without God’s divine intervention they will die.
  2. The snakes in the camp are sent from the Lord.  GOD sent them!  The wrath of God is on these people for their sin of murmuring and rebellion.
  3. All they have to do in order to be saved from God’s wrath is look at His provision hanging on a pole.

Jesus read the Old Testament believing that it was all pointing to him. There were pointers and foreshadowing everywhere that pointed to Christ.

  • Strike the rock in the wilderness and get water. The rock was Jesus. 
  • The Lamb that was to be slain was Jesus. 

The old testament, time and time again, points to Jesus.

But we might expect Him to skip this comparison of a snake to Jesus. It is shocking to compare the Son of Man to a snake. But Jesus doesn’t skip this one. He goes out of His way to choose it to help Nicodemus!.

So JESUS says,

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Are you starting to get it now?  When you meet Jesus the first thing that you must understand is that He is the Son of Man,  the Son of God. 

1.  Jesus is the Son of Man and the Son of God who was lifted up on the cross the way the snake was lifted up. Jesus is letting Nicodemus know that he is not only from God, He is God’s son.  Jesus is identifying Himself as the Son of Man.  The one born of man and of God.

Jesus did this in other meetings with people.  In the story of the Blind man whom He made to see. 

John 9:35-37

Jesus asked him “Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ [he asks the man he had healed.] He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, in fact He is the one who is speaking to you.’”

So when Jesus speaks of the Son of Man being lifted up, he is talking about himself, and his own crucifixion.

If you want to be reborn of the spirit, then belief that Jesus is God’s Son is absolutely important.

2) We must understand that Jesus is the source of salvation.

In this meeting Jesus is explaining that He, in the place of the snake, is the source of healing, the source of rescue from the poison that we have all been bitten with.  This poison that will surely lead to death for all that don’t turn to Jesus is sin.  Anyone that has any sin will die from the wrath of God.  God cannot tolerate sin. 

Jesus is the source of eternal life because He was lifted up like the snake.  God saves through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ ..., not by anything we do.

3) We also need to understand why Jesus Is Portrayed as Evil and a Curse

a) Jesus became Evil, Sin

Make no mistake Jesus in the place of the snake is portrayed as evil and a curse. This is what is so shocking! The snake is evil! The snakes were killing people! The snake on the pole is a picture of God’s curse on the people!  So it was with Jesus; for a short time he became the picture of Evil and the curse.

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:2, “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus, for all matters of what really happened, became snakelike.  He took on sin, He became sin so that He could deal with our sin.  This is going to sound strange to many of you but hear this: this is what it means to meet the real Jesus.  He loved you so much that, even though He was excellent in every way, He became full of evil for us through taking our sin on the cross. 

Even though we was sinless from the beginning, God made Him to be sin.  So that when He died, He died for that sin that was yours, that sin that was mine not His.  That sin that was our friends’ and family’s who have yet to accept this great gift of grace.

b) Jesus also became the Curse. 

Read Galatians 3:13

Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.

In becoming like the snake, he was the embodiment of our sin, and the embodiment of our curse. And in becoming sin and curse for us, he took ours away.

Its horrible to compare Jesus the Son of God to a snake, and at the same time, it is glorious to compare Christ to a snake ..., because through the act of the Cross we are saved!  That was our only hope.

Jesus gives eternal live because He was willing to give everything up and take on all that was sinful to do away with it.


Please don’t ever miss from a meeting with Jesus that He wants to Give Eternal Life  to all that believe in Him.  What he gives us from the cross is eternal life.

John 3:14-15

Remember for a moment that this was all meant for Nicodemus.  This is meant for those who don’t understand about being reborn.  This is for people that can’t understand a new life in Jesus.  This is for people that want to try and figure it out through living right or following all the rules.

That doesn’t work.  We have all been bitten.   We will die because of sin and through the curse that comes from God’s wrath on sin.  The only way to live is to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Look at verse 15 again.  HE DID THIS SO THAT EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM MAY HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.

This is where it gets harder than some of us like.  Why?  Because it is not as complicated as we would make it.  I am not saying following Jesus is easy.

"Following Jesus isn't always easy...but it's never complicated!"

As we meet Jesus and we ask Him how to be reborn, how to have a new life, Jesus says,

 'Believe ..., everyone who believes in Me may have eternal life.'

But what does ‘believe’ mean?  What does that mean to believe?  

5) Jesus Calls us to Look to Him to be saved and to nothing else.

Isaiah 45:22

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”

In the old Testament they had to look to the snake and they would live.  Look to Jesus.  That  means look to Him and nothing else. The grace of the new birth is our seeing Christ lifted up.  Do you believe? 

Read John 3:16-18

Look!  Look to Jesus and believe!  Do you believe?

This is a very simple idea indeed. ‘Look.’  Just ‘Look to Him and believe.’ You don’t have to go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A person doesn’t have to have a lot of money to look, or know all the rules to look.  Anyone can look; even a child can look.

Look to Jesus as He was on the cross for you, He sweat great drops of blood for you.
Don’t look at me, I can’t save you, look to Jesus! 

Jesus is saying, ‘Look at Me; I was dead and buried. Look at Me; I rose again. Look at Me; I ascended to heaven. Look at Me; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look at Me! Look unto Me!’  Jesus is calling for you to look to Him, believe and be saved by Him.

For some of you,  today is the day to look to Jesus, believe in Him and be saved, through Him.  Do you believe?  Its easy to say you believe, but do you really believe.

For example,  How many of you believe that this is a Red Rider bb gun?

How many believe I have ever shot this gun in this room?
How many believe I could do it today?
How many believe I could hit the balloon that Ryan is holding in his hand?
How may believe I could hit it being held in Ryan’s mouth?
How may believe I could hit it if I had you hold it in YOUR mouth?

[Note: For safety and example, Tyson did not perform this act.]

Christ is calling you to believe!

John 14:12-14

 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Its not just about saying you’re a Christian.  Its about believing and following Christ.

Nicodemus went from a person who met Jesus under the cover of darkness to the man who buried Jesus before it became dark. 

READ John 19:38-42

I pray that today through God’s word you have met Jesus and have seen that because He has been lifted up you can be saved by believing in Him.  But don’t just say you believe; put your faith into action and live for Him.

  • Confess your belief that He is the Christ the Son of the Living God;
  • Repent of your sin;
  • Be Baptized;
  • Live for Him!