Query: What percentage of you has been born again?
A little while back, I was watching some news show and one of the talking heads was describing a pending political ultimatum that was going to happen (or needed to happen) as a “Come-to-Jesus Moment.” I understood what they meant—roughly—but I had the words of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride running through my head, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Here, here, is a real come-to-Jesus moment. Literally, Nicodemus comes to see Jesus. And there are four parts to this come-to-Jesus moment that I want to point out because they happen over and over again throughout history—even here and now.
First, people see something special/different in Jesus. Why does Nicodemus come to see Jesus? We know you are a teacher who has come from God. God is with you because of the things you are doing.”
A lot of people like Jesus. A lot of people are attracted to his good works and words. Feeding the hungry. Healing the sick. “The truth will set you free.” “Love one another.” “Do unto others as you would have done to you.”
So, they approach Jesus. But here is the catch: people approach Jesus on their own terms. Nicodemus approaches Jesus at a particular time—John mentions it: night. That may not seem like an important detail for some, but it is for John.
John has been talking about Jesus in terms of light and dark. “In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
Nicodemus approaches the Light of the World in the dark—he sees something altogether special in Jesus (the holy Light of God), is attracted to him, but is only comfortable doing so under the cover of darkness—he doesn’t want to full-out follow Jesus.
How many people like Jesus, but only like him to a certain point? How many will accept the teachings they agree with or have manipulated to agree with them…but ignore or discount the whole of Jesus’ message? One of the best examples of this is Thomas Jefferson. He loved the Bible! Well, he loved his Bible. You see, he went through the Bible and literally cut out the parts he thought were impossible or irrelevant. Many, many people do this in their lives as well.
So, people see something special/different in Jesus and people approach Jesus on their own terms. None-the-less, Jesus speaks to them where they are at, but his speaking is a call into the Light.
Now this is very important: Nicodemus says that “we see you’re from God.” And Jesus replies, “If you are to really see the Kingdom of God, you must be born again/from above.” Jesus challenges Nicodemus’ belief and seeing. Jesus confronts Nicodemus’ soul with eternal truth.
Jesus confronts all would-be followers the same way. “You may like the miracles I have done. You may make happy bumper-stickers out of my words. But I am much more than these. Who I am and what I teach is radical. I will cost you everything. But I will rebirth you. I will give you a new life, an eternal life.”
And here is the fourth part of the come-to-Jesus moment: each person must respond to the claims of Jesus. Nicodemus comes to Jesus, attracted to what he sees, but he does so at night because he wants to protect who he is. Jesus sets it straight with Nicodemus—he gives him the truth about Truth—Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must radically change his life if he really wants to know God and His Kingdom.
What was true for Nicodemus is true for all. Maybe you’re a young person who has sat here for years, hearing stories about Jesus. Maybe you like him and you’re a good kid. But that doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. You must completely give yourself over to Jesus—to be born from above. Maybe you’re a Christian but you find yourself going through the motions or maybe you’ve cut yourself off from some of Jesus’ teachings you don’t like—you need to stop slumbering and remember that Jesus calls the shots and you are answerable to his truth/reality. How do you respond to Jesus?
How does Nicodemus respond? What does it say? Does it say that he comprehends and believes/sees? Or does he find it incomprehensible and does not believe? We don’t know! I find it interesting that John gives Nicodemus’ name. Why not just say “a Pharisee from the Sanhedrin”? John does this in other parts of the book. Nicodemus is actually mentioned two other times in the Gospel. First, when the Sanhedrin is denouncing Jesus, Nicodemus speaks up and says that Jesus should be allowed to speak about himself before they cast judgement. Second, Nicodemus collects Jesus’ crucified body, prepares it for burial, and then puts it in a grave he, himself, purchased. That doesn’t sound like an enemy of Christ. That sounds like a testimony, “I used to be a Pharisee…a member of the Sanhedrin. But then I had a come-to-Jesus moment and everything changed after that.”