Books of the Book: John

The Nicodemus Story

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Deyvy Rodriguez & Jon Paulien


Series Code: JBOTB

Program Code: JBOTB00008A

00:20 Hello and welcome again to "Books of the Book."
00:22 My name is Deyvy Rodriguez and I am so pleased
00:25 that you are able to take this time to study the Bible with us.
00:29 And we are studying the Gospel of John.
00:31 And in this program we are studying--
00:33 we are focusing on Nicodemus that is chapter 3.
00:38 And we are with Dr. Jon Paulien,
00:40 he is the Dean of Religion at Loma Linda University.
00:45 And welcome again, Dr. Paulien.
00:48 It's good to be with you again. Good to have you.
00:51 We are talking today about Nicodemus.
00:54 We have all read the story of Nicodemus in the Bible.
00:57 And the Bible says, and we'll read it in a minute.
01:00 He comes to Jesus and he has some questions and doubts.
01:04 And these answers that Jesus gives to him
01:07 are just take-- have taken him by surprise,
01:11 because apparently he does not know this things
01:14 and he is a teacher.
01:16 So, where shall we start? Okay.
01:19 I think we can start with the idea
01:22 that the stories in the Gospel of John.
01:24 Well, they are real stories actually occurred.
01:28 John selects and uses them
01:31 with a deeper spiritual purpose in mind.
01:34 And this becomes evident right in the first two verses
01:38 which so if our viewers want to take a look it's 3:1 and 2.
01:45 And we're gonna look at those in just a minute.
01:48 But these verses tie us
01:50 in with the previous verses in the program.
01:53 In the last program I talked about dual directional passages,
01:56 2:23-25 is such a dual directional passage.
02:03 It builds on the cleansing of the temple story,
02:06 but it also bridges over to the story of Nicodemus.
02:09 So Nicodemus in a real sense is coming to Jesus,
02:13 because of the cleansing of the temple,
02:15 because of the miracles that Jesus did at that time.
02:19 And in the end of chapter 2 it says
02:23 people believed in Jesus, because of the miracles He did,
02:27 but Jesus didn't entrust Himself to them.
02:30 He recognized that their faith was not really a true faith.
02:34 He was grounded in spectacular stuff and miracles, etcetera.
02:38 And it was not grounded in a true spiritual commitment.
02:41 So Nicodemus thinks Jesus will be flattered with his visit.
02:47 But Jesus reads right through him,
02:49 He knows what's inside human beings.
02:51 He illustrates that knowing when Nicodemus comes
02:55 and Jesus keeps hitting him with stuff is--how did you know that?
02:59 So, let's take a look at the first two verses
03:01 I want to point out a few things.
03:03 "There was a man of the Pharisees
03:05 named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
03:07 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him,
03:10 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God,
03:14 for no one can do these things
03:16 or these signs that you do unless God is with him.'"
03:20 Let me point out a few things.
03:22 First of all, something you would not see in translation.
03:25 My translation says "Now there was a man of the Pharisees--"
03:28 what did yours say? "There was a man--"
03:30 "There was a man of the Pharisees--"
03:32 or it doesn't even have, there.
03:33 Doesn't have the noun.
03:34 But there's a little word in there, in the Greek,
03:36 it's just a two letter word, de,
03:39 and that word is a conjunction often translated but.
03:45 But whenever that occurs
03:48 it's never a new story, it's a connector.
03:52 So the first word grammatically in this story is a connector.
03:58 So we are not starting a new story in 3:1,
04:02 we are connected to the previous story.
04:05 So right in the Greek language that's put right in there
04:09 to show that there's a connection.
04:11 The last word of chapter 2 is man, Anthropos.
04:17 The first keyword here is a man of the Pharisees.
04:21 See, that's not an accident. There's a connection there.
04:25 Jesus have been dealing with the rulers
04:27 of the Jews in the temple.
04:28 Now one of them, a man of the Pharisees
04:32 comes to Jesus by night.
04:35 One thing to keep in mind, you know,
04:38 we have a negative view of Pharisees today
04:40 because of the way many of them responded to Jesus.
04:43 The reality these were the best people of their time.
04:46 These were serious about God.
04:49 They tried to organize their lives around God.
04:52 They studied the scriptures. They spent lots of time praying.
04:55 You would want to have a Pharisee as a neighbor.
04:58 Because really their people are very--very moral
05:01 and ethical and serious about their faith.
05:05 But unfortunately even moral, serious people in faith
05:12 sometimes allow themselves to get off track
05:15 and that's what seems to have happened here.
05:19 I've mentioned that in John,
05:21 the stories becomes acted parables
05:23 that becomes clear in this night stuff here.
05:26 He came by night.
05:30 In English that's a very simple phrase that normally would mean
05:35 simply he came during the dark hours of the day.
05:38 But in Greek, time can be expressed
05:40 in three different ways.
05:43 One of those ways, and they are all different forms.
05:45 So you can see in the text exactly
05:48 which form is being used.
05:49 One of them would be a point in time.
05:51 He came at this point in time in the middle of the night.
05:56 Second way is duration.
05:59 You know the night is 12 hours long,
06:01 in the middle of there somewhere he came.
06:03 All right, it doesn't say exactly when,
06:04 but somewhere in that, in the duration of the night he came.
06:07 The third one is more of a qualitative usage.
06:12 It points to something different than simple chronological time.
06:16 He came by night means he came in darkness.
06:20 And the darkness wasn't just physical darkness,
06:23 it was a darkness of soul.
06:25 In other words, John takes a literal event
06:28 and by using this particular form in the Greek,
06:32 he triggers the reader to see,
06:34 oh-oh, this coming by night is more than just an accident.
06:38 It says something about Nicodemus and who he is
06:41 and what his problems are.
06:43 So Nicodemus is clearly an example of inadequate faith.
06:48 He believes in Jesus 'cause he saw miracles,
06:51 he doesn't believe in Jesus because he wants to conform
06:53 his life to the character of God.
06:56 He hasn't come to be transformed,
06:58 he has come to be a part of a movement
07:00 that's gonna be popular.
07:02 So Nicodemus is a spiritual teacher,
07:04 yet he is in spiritual darkness.
07:07 He's coming to Jesus as a rock star.
07:10 He's not coming to Jesus to have his soul transformed.
07:12 Well, that's, that's hard to imagine that, you know,
07:15 a teacher who teaches spiritual things, you know,
07:18 the things of God and yet that teacher be or live in darkness,
07:24 but in this case Nicodemus is that example.
07:28 And this is not saying that Nicodemus is a perverse person.
07:32 And there are lot of people who honestly feel
07:34 they're following God to the best of their understanding
07:37 but somehow, somewhere little choices they've made
07:39 in their lives steer them a little bit off the track.
07:42 And then when a big decision has to be made,
07:45 they may not be in a place to make it.
07:47 We will get to that actually at the end of this session.
07:51 Verses 18 to 21 talk about that spiritual dynamic.
07:55 Why was Nicodemus in darkness?
07:57 And how do you get out of that darkness?
07:59 So John actually fixes it here.
08:02 But he's telling the story of a man
08:04 who was kind of supporting Jesus,
08:07 but supporting Jesus as a popular teacher,
08:11 as somebody who might conquer the Romans, whatever.
08:14 He's not wanting to be transformed himself.
08:18 Now, who is this Nicodemus? He's not just a teacher.
08:23 If you go to verse 10, my translation says,
08:27 "'You are Israel's teacher,' said Jesus."
08:31 That sounds like a bit more than just one of Israel's teachers.
08:35 Because in the Greek he says he uses the definite article,
08:39 you are the teacher of Israel.
08:43 He was either the predominant teacher of Israel
08:46 or he may even have been seminary dean.
08:49 He may have held my position, you know,
08:51 at Loma Linda in the University of Jerusalem
08:55 a position of the one head of all the other teachers.
08:58 So he was the most prominent figure
09:00 and we even know about Nicodemus from the Talmud.
09:03 100 and more years later on Nicodemus
09:06 is mentioned as a significant figure at this time.
09:09 So he was a very popular figure, a very revered teacher
09:14 and yet when he comes to Jesus there's something missing.
09:18 And the remedy that Jesus offers him is in verses 5 to 8.
09:22 And before we read that because verse 25 which you said,
09:27 even though it's a new chapter, it's not a beginning of a story
09:30 but rather because verse 25 says
09:32 that Jesus knew what was in man's heart.
09:34 And so Jesus knows what is in Nicodemus' heart,
09:37 Nicodemus' heart and his need.
09:40 Yeah. Is that correct?
09:41 So Nicodemus came hiding something.
09:44 He was sort of exploring
09:45 whether he wants to get in relationship with Jesus.
09:48 And Jesus goes right to the core of his inner being
09:52 which is scary, when it happens.
09:54 So we are reading verses? Five to eight.
09:57 "Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you,
10:00 unless one is born of water and the Spirit,
10:02 he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
10:05 That which is born of the flesh is flesh,
10:07 and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
10:10 Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again."
10:14 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it,
10:17 but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.
10:20 So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.'"
10:23 By the way that's my favorite text I think, John 3:8.
10:27 It's the text most people sort of pass over.
10:31 But it's interesting.
10:32 I always thought that, that text was about
10:35 the Holy Spirit but it's not.
10:38 It says the wind blows wherever it wishes to,
10:40 no one knows where its' coming from or where it's going,
10:43 so is everyone, everyone who is born of the Spirit.
10:49 In other words when the Spirit enters your life
10:52 or when you truly are filled by the Spirit,
10:54 you become a little unpredictable like the wind.
10:59 And one thing I have learned is the closer you walk to God
11:02 the more out of step you may be with people.
11:05 Because every church is liable to be filled
11:09 with some people at least like Nicodemus
11:12 who are doing all the right things,
11:13 saying all the right things
11:15 and yet their heart is not right with God.
11:17 And the interesting thing is
11:18 that the closer you walk with the Spirit,
11:21 the more unpredictable you almost become.
11:24 Spirit doesn't create cookie cutter Christian,
11:26 it brings out our individuality
11:28 and I think we are sometimes afraid of that.
11:30 That why I point that out.
11:31 And so if you are led by the Spirit then you will be taken--
11:34 You will be unique.
11:36 You will be taken anywhere like the wind will take you.
11:39 A lot of people would like us all to look alike, talk alike,
11:43 say the same things, say it just the right way.
11:47 And yet this perhaps underlines the fact
11:49 there's more than one right way to think,
11:52 more than one right way to say the truth sometimes.
11:54 And when it's combined with our own individuality
11:58 you can have special power I think.
12:01 Now going back to what Jesus told Nicodemus in--apparently,
12:05 Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was saying, right?
12:09 That's right.
12:10 And shall we read what he replies.
12:12 Sure. Go ahead.
12:13 And we are in verse 9,
12:14 "Nicodemus answered and said to Him,
12:16 'How can these things be?'
12:20 And Jesus answered and said to him,
12:21 'Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?'"
12:25 So apparently he lacked a major spiritual lesson
12:31 that he didn't know about.
12:33 For a lot of people religion is a matter of the head
12:37 rather than the heart.
12:39 We like to know the right things.
12:40 We like to teach the right things.
12:43 But to allow the heart to be
12:44 genuinely transformed, that's a challenge.
12:47 We can often be one thing in public
12:49 and another thing back home.
12:51 You see, that's very, very easy to do.
12:53 Who the person is when nobody is looking,
12:56 that's what character is all about.
12:58 And Nicodemus evidently failed that test.
13:00 He was a great teacher, he knew all kinds of things
13:03 but his life was not there.
13:05 And this is a real big challenge to me
13:07 'cause I think I have a tremendous responsibility
13:09 as someone who teaches these things,
13:11 has may be studied more deeply than many people have studied.
13:15 Yet if I don't let that change my life
13:18 and that's why I like 3:8 so much.
13:20 Because it encourages me to let the Holy Spirit change my life.
13:24 I can't be the same as I was before, you know.
13:29 When the Holy Spirit enters your life nobody can predict
13:33 where God is gonna take you.
13:34 His purpose may take you places you never dreamed, you see.
13:38 So I think that this kind of genuine transformation
13:43 is what this is talking about.
13:45 When we receive Jesus Christ, the Spirit comes in
13:47 and transforms us if we allow Him.
13:50 Can we say then that Nicodemus was filled with knowledge,
13:53 but then he was lacking the Spirit?
13:56 And that brings us back to water and the Spirit.
14:00 If what he needed was water and Spirit, what is the water?
14:04 And we can come to that after the break.
14:06 Well, stay with us as we continue to study
14:08 how the Holy Spirit leads us today.


Revised 2014-12-17