Nicodemus was not an ordinary citizen. He was part of the Jewish ruling council. A Jewish ruling council consists of seventy-one members, including the high priest. It consists of members from Sadducees and Pharisee. Jewish council during Jesus times had the power to judge and punish most of the cases according to Jewish law. But their power to give capital punishment was controlled by the Roman Prefect. The Roman Prefect also had the power to nominate to the high priest. The power-sharing struggle between Roman prefect and the Jewish council was always at the flashpoint during the times of Jesus.
Coming back to Nicodemus, the Bible gives a little background about his life. His name appears in three different contexts and all three times in the gospel of John. Nicodemus was a powerful man as he was part of the ruling council. He was also a rich man based on the fact that he brought in seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloe during the burial of Jesus Christ. He was personally involved in wrapping Jesus body with think linen as per the Jewish custom. Nicodemus could be much older than Jesus considering his position, influence and the wealth he was holding.
Nicodemus, a rich, powerful, influential and a Pharisee came to meet Jesus one day in the night. He already had a logical conclusion in his mind that Jesus came from God based on what he saw and observed. For the very first time, Jesus introduced the term “Born again” while talking to Nicodemus. Nicodemus was reflecting at the physical meaning of the word “Born Again”. His immediate question was how can somebody born-again by entering mother womb for the second time that too after they were grown up?
Jesus was talking about new birth by water and spirit. Water in Jewish custom is an important element for purification. We can hear the sound of wind and we can feel it, but we cannot see the wind with our physical eyes. Similarly, born again experience we get through the Holy Spirit can be felt by us and others, but we can not see it through the physical eyes since there are no changes in physical form. The combination of purification of our heart and transformation of our life through the Holy Spirit gives born-again experience for us. Jesus gives a clear definition of born-again status. Born-again is not about telling a sinner’s prayer. But it involves a process of cleansing of heart and transformation through the Holy Spirit.
Nicodemus who was educated in the laws and might have memorized the entire Pentateuch could not understand or believe what Jesus explained. It was not so surprising if we keep our focus on the 1st-century context and timeline because Jesus introduced the term born-again very first time with Nicodemus.
Jesus goes ahead and explains how his life on earth will end. Jesus gives an interesting comparison between how he would be lifted up very similar to how Moses lifted the bronze snake in the wilderness. Whoever looked at the bronze snake were healed of snake bite and similarly whoever believed and seek Jesus will be saved. This comparative statement would have made much more sense to Nicodemus since this is part of Pentateuch (Num 21:9) and should be a very familiar passage to him.
Jesus sums up the discussion in John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Those who believe him will never face condemnation. Are you willing to believe Jesus today?
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