The Cloud of Witnesses
Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible
Lesson 1: Nicodemus – Abraham’s Descendant
Like most of the religious leaders of his day, Nicodemus was very proud of his heritage – being a true natural descendent of Abraham. That gave him kudos and religious superiority and status. He considered he had a ‘claim’ on God because God told Abraham that his descendants would be as vast as the grains of sand on the seashore and that God would especially bless them. He considered his pedigree to be immaculate.
Not only that but he was a Pharisee – one of only 6000 in the brotherhood. He upheld the sacred law and helped both administer and interpret it. The Pharisees were the custodians of the Truth in all religious matters. He was not only a descendant of Abraham; he was a Pharisee plus he was one of the religious leaders - one of only 70 who was allowed to occupy a seat in the sacred Sanhedrin. Why was he not good enough for Jesus and God?
You can imagine his and his fellow Pharisees’ chagrin when Jesus seemed to be totally unimpressed with their position and status, and to add to the ignominy, spent most of his time with fishermen and other ‘low-life’.
Nevertheless, there was an ache in his heart. Something was missing – and that something was of tremendous significance. All the religious piety could not fill the ache for something more. There had to be another answer – something even more important than religion – even Judaism.
He began to see something in Jesus that intrigued him. Jesus was different. He was different from the people. He was different from the other religious leaders. He was even different from the Pharisees. He had an authority that was disturbing, yet appeared genuine. He performed miracles, which was the prerogative of God – and yet He was so human – not a bit like his or their concept of God.
Feeling conspicuous and not wanting others to see him, he decided to seek a quiet individual audience with Jesus. He started off well enough trying to show respect to Jesus but was hit right between the eyes by Jesus’ response. I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again. Wow – that was direct.
Nicodemus heard the words “born again” and would have been struck by 3 options. First – to be born all over again from scratch; secondly, to born a second time; and thirdly, to be born of God. He realised that Jesus was talking of a completely radical change in his lifestyle. The ache within him said, “Yes, I want it – but how can I have it? I don’t have the ability, energy or capability in myself. How can I get there? It’s necessary but in my experience it’s impossible!”
Jesus revealed to him that it was not by any natural experience – not by becoming a baby again, not by trying his hardest, not following a set of rules or religion, but only by spiritual birth. He had to submit his life to God – to be open to receive the Spirit of God into his life - and then the transformation could take place.
Just in natural conception the human sperm has to impregnate the egg to form a new human being so the Spirit of God has to impregnate our spirit so we become Children of God. It’s the only way we get to know God and go to Heaven.
Nicodemus would say to us today...
It’s not your natural birth that counts – it’s your new birth in Christ Jesus, through the power and presence of Holy Spirit that really matters.
Father, thank you so much that because Jesus Christ, the Word of God, died on the Cross for me, my sins are forgiven, I have peace with You and I am now a Child of God by the Holy Spirit living in me. Please help me never forget the wonderful privilege that is mine – to be able to call You – Abba Father. Amen.
Matthew 3:1-12; Galatians 3:1-14; 2 Corinthians 5:10-21.
How does the Bible tell us we become “children of Abraham”?
Why must we be “born again of the Spirit of God”?
Why are we not good enough as we are to get into Heaven?