Nicodemus, a very important man in Israel, came to Jesus by night. He was a Pharisee, a ruler, and a teacher. However, on this night, this “teacher of Israel” became the pupil of Jesus. The following was the conclusion of Jesus’ lesson:
… 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. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:14-21)
So many truths were stated in just a few short sentences.
Jesus taught Nicodemus about spiritual death. Just as the ancient Israelites were “dead men walking” after being cursed by God, so too were Nicodemus and his neighbors. All men were sinfully rebellious and perishing. All men were hopeless in their wicked condition. Some might have concluded that Jesus came to earth to preach the Law and condemn those on the earth, but he did not do so. He did not need to do so, for Nicodemus and all his neighbors were condemned already.
Jesus taught Nicodemus about unconditional love. God did not have to help his enemies. He could have eternally excommunicated them as he did Lucifer and his demons. However, with undeserved affection and action, God sent his Son to earth to sacrifice him for sinful men. Greater love has never been shown than this.
Jesus taught Nicodemus about mediatorial salvation. Just as the serpent was hoisted on a pole between heaven and earth, so too the Son of Man had come to be hoisted and affixed between God and man. In Moses’ day, accursed men and women who had faith in God and looked up to God’s elevated serpent, they were saved from God’s wrath. In Jesus’ day, men who had faith in God and looked to the Son, they too could find rescue from God’s curse.
Jesus taught Nicodemus about saving faith. Spiritual rituals or personal works were not the means whereby one received the free gift of God. Salvation came through looking and believing. As men, by faith, rested in what the Father and Son were accomplishing for sinful rebels, they were justified, reconciled, adopted, and filled. Any works required by God were preformed by God. This is what Jesus meant in verse 21 when he said, “… So that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Jesus taught Nicodemus about the universal mercy. God, through the serpent on the pole, provided salvation for Israel. God, through the Son on the cross, provided salvation for Israel and their neighbors. Whoever — Jew or Greek — believed could have eternal life. Twice this was stated. God was the lover of the Jewish people. He was also the lover of Gentile pagans. God determined to love the world. There would be no people groups left out of his wonderful plan.
Jesus taught Nicodemus about divine regeneration.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
Even though the Father had sent the Son, and even though the Son had come to earth to live and die, totally depraved individuals were not so impressed with the unconditional and undeserved love of God. The light of God’s grace would shine upon the world, and the world would prefer the darkness to God’s glorious light. Therefore, though everyone was called in some manner, and whosoever could come, and anyone who believed in Jesus could be saved, and all could find salvation in the name of Jesus, there was none righteous, no not one.
Yet, there is Good News. The Gospel is the unconditional love of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How do dark-loving, dead men come to Jesus? In many times and in strange ways, the Holy Spirit shows even more grace to enemies of God. He finishes that orchestrated by the Father and performed by the Son.
Friends, let’s rejoice in the Trinitarian mercy of God. Let’s give glory and praise to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father has not left us alone to suffer the effects of his curse; he has chosen to send his Son. The Son co-planned with the Father and submitted himself to their combined plan. With great humility he came to live under the Law. With great faithfulness he kept the Law. Then, with great love he died as the perfect substitute for sordid men. Jesus earned all the merit needed for his children. He paid the price for all their sinful affections, thoughts, words, and deeds; nothing is owed. And why to we believe? Why have we confessed our sins? Why have we called upon his name? Why have we been baptized and joined his church? Why are we not ashamed of the name Christian? Why is it that we have been convinced to become his disciples when many mock and hate him? Again, let us rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit. In his own strange way and timing, he has lovingly attacked our soul. He has drawn us near to God. He has removed the blinders and made us want to become disciples of Jesus Christ. We know not why this extra grace was thrown our way, but without it we would still be “dead men walking” who love darkness. Friends, let us be humble and incredibly grateful, and let us be a bit charismatic. Let us dance for what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have done for us.