John 3:4 – “Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old?'”
How Dare You?
As an adult Jewish male living in Israel, Yeshua was required to travel to Jerusalem three times a year to observe the convocational feasts. During the first Passover of His public ministry, Jesus made quite an impression at the Temple. Jewish people from all over the world were in Jerusalem for the feast. Gentiles were there observing the worship of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s God. The flagrant commercialism of what was to be a Holy Convocation in His Father’s house infuriated the Son of God.
The poor, the powerful. The Sadducees, the Pharisees. Tax collectors. Zealots. Turning over the tables of merchants and money changers, He caught everyone by surprise. Imagine the scene. Everyone wanted to know…
- who Jesus was,
- where did He come from,
- and who gave Him the authority to do such things?
One of the curious ones was a man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a rabbi, the leader of a rabbinic school, and a member of the Sanhedrin. John 3:1-21 records a curious night-time conversation between Yeshua and Nicodemus.
Nicodemus recognized the miraculous deeds of Jesus and what He was saying as “coming from God.” In response, Jesus answered,
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (anothen – from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God. – John 3:3
Born again? Nicodemus was confused. “How can a man be born when he is old?” Like many of his time, Nicodemus reacted to Jesus’ comment out of his cultural worldview. As far as Nicodemus was concerned, his physical birth (of water) as a Jew was sufficient to guarantee his entrance into God’s coming kingdom. But what is this “when he is old?”
Pharisaic Judaism taught that a man could be “born again” six different times, four of which could apply to Nicodemus.
- Gentile Conversion – A Gentile wishing to identify with Israel by following the practices of Judaism was said to have been “born again.” Not applicable to Nicodemus.
- Crowned as King – If a Jew was crowned as king, he was “born again.” Not applicable.
- Male Adulthood Recognized – At about 12 years of age, a boy was recognized as an adult in the synagogue. He was born again. Nicodemus qualified!
- Marriage – We all know how marriage changes individuals. Married men were “born again” at marriage. Nicodemus qualified!
- Rabbinic Ordination – If a young man completed his studies from 18-30 years of age with a recognized rabbi, he was ordained as a new rabbi. He was born again. Nicodemus qualified!
- Head of a Rabbinic School – If a rabbi chose to establish a formal school to train and ordinate rabbis, he was considered “born again.” Nicodemus qualified!
Where Are You Coming From?
To me, all of this information is interesting. It informs us about Nicodemus’ question about being born again “when he is old.” Everyone views what is around them and their place within it through the lens of a personal worldview. But we know (or should) that our perceptions are flawed. We don’t know what we don’t know.
Jesus met Nicodemus where he was and opened his mind and heart to something more, birth from above! Next week, we will see Jesus meeting someone else, a woman with a different worldview. They both needed what Jesus offered. Both were “born from above” and changed forever.
What about you?
New Testament Lessons
- Following Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, He began collecting disciples from among those who were following John the Baptist.
- While attending the first Passover of His public ministry, Jesus challenged the religious authorities at His Father’s house, the Temple in Jerusalem. He drove the money changers and merchants away, creating anger, curiosity, and conversations.
- Nicodemus, a rabbi of significant influence, visited Jesus one night when no one would see him.
- Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he was born from above, a second birth, he had no place in the kingdom Jesus was introducing.
- During their conversation, Jesus declared Himself as both God and Savior using two Hebrew Bible / Old Testament passages. They are Daniel 7 (Son of Man) and Numbers 21:8-9 (Comparing Himself to the Raised Serpent).
- Explain how knowing Nicodemus’ worldview as a first-century Jew is different from your own. Is this information important to you? Why, or why not?
- How has Jesus answered the questions you are ashamed to ask in publically?
- What do the people around you know about your relationship with Jesus?
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