John Message #8 “Jesus and Nicodemus” by Ed Miller, Jan. 24, 2024

Listen to the audio above while following along in the transcript below, which is also available for download at

As we come to look into the word of the Lord, we need to remember that only God can reveal God, and we need to trust the Holy Spirit to turn our eyes to the Lord Jesus.  I want to share a verse.  We’re in the Nicodemus story and John 7:17, “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from myself.”  Knowing, we usually think has to do with the mind, that we know, but according to that verse, if any man is willing to do His will, he will know.  We don’t need more information; we don’t need empirical evidence.  God looks at the heart, and if you’re willing to be willing, if you wish to do God’s will, He says then you are going to know.  Nicodemus was one that God saw his heart, and he had a will, and then he came to discover Christ as his truth.  Let’s pray together…

Heavenly Father, thank You that all You desire from us is a heart that is willing to do Your will, and then we’ll know, and You’ll reveal Yourself and disclose Yourself to us.  We ask You to work that in us, that we might be willing always to honor You and do Your will.  We commit this session unto You and just ask that we might behold the Lord Jesus in a fresh way.  We ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

As you know, we’re in the Gospel of John, and as you also know, we’re not studying the Gospel of John to know the Gospel of John.  We’re studying to know the Lord.  Every book in the Bible is given to unveil Him, so we would know Him.  John tells us in plain words why he wrote this gospel.  John 20:31, “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have Life in His name.”  I just took that verse and divided it up into the three purposes for which he wrote.  He wrote that you might know the Lord.  He wrote that you might trust the Lord.  He wrote that you might enjoy the Lord, experience His life.  As we go through every story in the Gospel of John, in our hearts we’re going to have the question, “How does this help me know You, how does this help me trust You and how can I enjoy You more through this study?”  That’s why John wrote, and so that’s how we’re going to study it.

In our meditation we’ve come to the first cleansing of the temple at the beginning of His ministry.  We had already looked at the first miracle where He turned water into wine.  John doesn’t give us the record of everything.  In other words, we know the first miracle Jesus did, but then John doesn’t say, “Alright, now this is miracle number two.  Okay, this is miracle number three.”  He doesn’t list the miracles that way.  We know the first miracle because of John 2:11, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” 

We know that somewhere between that first miracle and the conversation our Lord had with Nicodemus, we are quite sure that He did other miracles that John didn’t record.  The reason I say that is because of John 3:2, “This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You’ve come from God as a teacher; no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.’”  So, there were signs that Nicodemus had beheld.  It’s possible that the miracle at Cana was rumored and he heard about that.  He saw the sign of the cleansing of the temple, and that would make it plural.  He might have been talking about those signs, but we know that this took place at Passover, and we know that during Passover He did other signs.  We don’t know what they were, besides cleansing the temple, because of John 2:23, “When He was in Jerusalem at the Passover during the Feast, many believed in His name, observing the signs which He was doing.”  So, He was doing other signs.  We don’t know exactly how long it was between the marriage of Cana and the conversation with Nicodemus; that’s the whole point.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time reviewing what we saw last time.  If you missed that, you know that the CD’s are available, or it’s online, as well.  I want to remind you that Jesus in cleansing the temple had a passion for a pure temple; He said, “The zeal for My Father’s house,” jealous love, “makes Me want My Father’s house to be pure.”  Last week in chapter two and three; they’re connected.  In chapter two there is something that was tried to purify the temple and it didn’t work.  In chapter three something was tried and it didn’t work.  There’s only one thing that can purify the temple. 

What was attempted in chapter two that didn’t work?  And then we’ll look at chapter three, and it didn’t work. What was attempted in chapter two, we just used the single word “reformation”.   Where do I get that idea?  I get that idea because this is the first cleansing of the temple, of the beginning of His ministry.  But there was a second cleansing at the end of His ministry, and it looked very much like this first cleansing.  Listen to Luke 19:45, and it’s in Matthew 21 and Mark 11, “Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling, saying to them, ‘It’s written that My house shall be a house of prayer; you have made it a robber’s den.’” 

That looks like the same cleansing but it’s different.  One took place at the beginning of His ministry, and this took place at the end of His ministry.  The point I’m making is that He cleansed the temple the first time and it didn’t work.  He had to do it again at the end of His ministry.  Reformation never works because it only touches the picture; it doesn’t touch the reality. 

The temple was a picture.  So, they tried to reform the picture.  You can for a while.  As you know, the temple was a picture God’s dwelling place.  Therefore, we say, “That’s the Christian; you’re God’s dwelling place; I’m God’s dwelling place.”  1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God; you are not your own; you’ve been bought with a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.”  We are the temple.  I’m not going to get into it now, but sometimes the Lord who lives in us is going to flip over a few tables.  I’m amazed that they call it the cleansing of the temple, and when it was all cleansed, tables were upside down and money was all over the floor and animals were running around.  That’s how my children used to clean their room.  Sometimes that has to be done in order to cleanse the temple.

All through the Old Testament that temple was a picture of the people of God; it was a measure, a gauge, an indication.  It’s interesting, if you go through the temple passages in the Old Testament, over and over again the temple was a reflection of the people.  When the temple was in disrepair, the hearts of God’s people were in decline, and when the temple started to get repaired again, when they had reformation, the people started to come back to the Lord. 

You just look at the temple and you can see the heart of God’s people.  That’s why you’ll find that reformation never works.  In the Old Testament in the Book of Judges, there are seven reformations.  Why seven?  It’s because the first one didn’t work, and the second one didn’t work, and they had to do it over and over and over again.  When you go through the Book of Chronicles and Kings, you are going to see that there were reformations, there were reforming kings.  There was Uzziah, there was Jothan, there was Josiah and Hezekiah.  These men reformed, but it didn’t work.  It never works.  Reformation does not reach the reality; it only touches the picture.  It will work on the picture for a little while, but there must be redemptive change.  That’s the only thing that’s going to work, a change of character, a change of heart, a change of spirit, a work of God, and inward change, and not a change of the mind but an inward change.  We read about revivals and awakenings in history, and thank God that He sent those, but they didn’t last long, did they?  We read about Luther.  I think he would turn over now if he saw what has happened.  There was the Billy Graham movement and the hippie movement when the Lord was working in wonderful ways.  They were great awakenings, but they don’t last. 

We look for change.  We can change school libraries, but then it’s not going to last.  It’s a little bit of a change but it only touches the picture.  We can march against abortion clinics, but it’s not going to last.  It’s touching the picture but it doesn’t touch the reality.  We need redemptive change.  We can write to our congressmen and effect congress, but it’s not going to last.  You can boycott certain products and it will make a change, but it’s not going to last.  Inclusion is not redemptive change.  It’s got to be redemptive change.  The only thing that will ever work is redemptive change, not reformation.  It effects the picture and it might help for a while; we might be able to vote somebody into the school board or somebody into congress and it will help for a little while, but it’s all going to go back because the heart of man is wicked.

I don’t know where you are on this idea of redemptive change, but let me give the full picture, just so we have a balance.  There are some in days past in church history, like the Puritans and the Holiness Movement and some of the early Brethren.  They wouldn’t involve themselves in anything unless it was redemptive change.  They said, “We’re God’s people, and we’re not going to be involved in just reformation.  We want redemptive change.”  So, they took a hard stand against reformation because it wasn’t redemptive.  They actually went beyond 2 Timothy 2:4, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”  This passage says that Christians should not entangle themselves in everyday life, but they go beyond that, and they say, “We’re not going to entangle ourselves, and we’re not even going to involve ourselves.  The Bible doesn’t say not to involve yourselves.  It says, “Don’t entangle yourselves.”  There’s a difference.  They took a hard stand; they said, “This is not my world, so I’m not going to vote, and if you’re a good Christian, you will not vote, and you will not march, and you will not boycott, and you’re not going to write to your Congressmen to make changes.  It doesn’t work.”  And they went so far as to say, “Stay out of the military, and don’t even wear a uniform, even a police uniform.  And don’t try to run for political office, and don’t run to get onto some board, council meeting or some school board.”  They just completely said, “Only redemptive change; I’m not going to involve myself if it’s not redemptive change.”

I don’t go that far; I like the “don’t entangle yourself”.  I think that is solid.  I don’t get too much involved, unless it’s redemptive change, but I don’t go as far as some of those early folks did. 

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but I think we need to be careful, because of the truth of redemptive change, that we might in a wrong way judge those who are trying to change the picture; we might be critical against those who are doing things like trying to get involved in votes and getting onto committees, and so on.  Just because someone marches for life and you don’t march for life, you can’t judge them, and I can’t judge them.  I hope they don’t judge you, and they can’t judge us. 

Certainly, our Lord Jesus knew that cleansing the temple the first time, like he did, wasn’t going to work.  He knew that.  Those who were a den of thieves, making merchandise, became the den of thieves.  It didn’t work anymore than when Nehemiah threw Tobiah out of the temple.  Nehemiah 13:7, “I came to Jerusalem and I learned about the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah by preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God.  It was very displeasing for me, so I threw all of Tobiah’s household goods out of the room.”  He not only threw it out of the room, but out of the window and out in the street.  He threw all his stuff out.  Later, God had to judge because it didn’t last.  So, we can keep throwing Tobiah out and try to reform and throw out the money changers, but we need a miracle of God.

In this connection I think God is actually a lot more concerned with the picture than I am.  I want to go for the reality.  I just say, “This is the reality, and I want redemptive change and I want it in the heart, and a lot of these pictures I can live without them.”  But I think the Lord is more concerned with pictures than we are.  He wasn’t too happy when Moses ruined the picture, and struck the rock the second time.  In fact, that kept Moses out of the Promised Land when he did that.  He wasn’t too happy when Samson cut his hair; that was a picture of the Nazarite, having that long hair.  God saw his heart before that; he was a scum before he had his hair cut.  God saw his heart, and yet God kept blessing him.  The Spirit of God came on him, but as soon as he ruined the picture, God got angry.

Our nation is far from the Lord.  If you have your eyes open, I think you see that.  I know God sees it, and sometimes I scratch my head, and I say, “Why hasn’t He judged us, yet?”  I think maybe it’s because there is still a remnant in the picture.  We still have, “In God we trust,” on the coins.  They don’t trust God, but it’s the picture, and it’s still there.  Even though they’re trying to take, “One nation under God,” out of the pledge, it’s still there.  That’s part of the picture.  If you go to the Supreme Court to the oak doors, you’ll see Moses and the Ten Commandments.  It’s still a picture.  Every Congress opens with prayer.  It’s not real, because many of them don’t know the Lord, but it’s part of the picture.  Washington Memorial has the words, “Holiness to the Lord.”  I think they’re trying to get rid of all the pictures.  They’re throwing prayer out of school and all of that kind of stuff.  I think when the picture goes, I think our nation is under the judgment of the Lord.

God has pictures, and the church is a picture, and baptism is a picture, and the Lord’s table and the eucharist is a picture, and the nation of Israel is a picture.  There are so many pictures, and I think God says, “I’m not against reformation.  I know it’s not going to last.”  God may lead you to deal with the picture and there is a change for a while.  Ultimately, the only thing that will work is redemptive change.

The scourge of cords in verse 15, “He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple.”  That expression “a scourge of cords”, sounds scary.  It sounds like a little whip, that He made a whip, and He’s flipping tables over and money is flying all over the place and animals are all running around.  That scourge of cords was a picture.  It was symbolic.  He never hit anybody with that scourge.  They deserved to be whipped, but He never whipped anybody with that.  That was a symbol of authority, but I also think it was a symbol of mercy.  He never broke anything in the temple when He disrupted the temple.  He flipped tables over, but you could stand them up again.  He threw money on the floor, but you could gather up those coins.  He drove animals out, but you could regather the animals.

Notice verse 16, “To those who were selling doves, He said, ‘Take these things away.  Stop making My Father’s house a place of merchandise.’”  See, the doves were kept in cages, and if He had thrown the cages over, the doves would have flown away and they couldn’t be easily regathered.  This was mercy.  When He cleansed the temple, nothing was broken, nothing was damaged, nothing was lost.  In fact, it was mercy when He told the people, “Just take the doves away.”  He wasn’t trying to hurt them; He was trying to show them that He had a passion for the purity of His Father’s house.

So, there are pictures, and there is reality.  Pictures can be affected by reformation, but it’s not real.  Only the Spirit of God working in the heart is going to be real.  Reformation will never work; it can affect the picture, only, so let’s not judge those who feel called to help the picture, and let’s not judge those who will say, “I’m not writing to my Congressman, and I’m not going to march, and I’m not going to vote.”  They need to live before the Lord, and you need to live before the Lord.  So, let’s live in unity.

While we’re on this truth, Jesus reforming, though He knew it wouldn’t work, the picture of the temple, is there anything in the text that points to the one thing that will work?  Is there anything in the cleansing that points to redemptive change?  I’m suggesting that there is.  Follow along as I quote verse 18-21, “The Jews said to Him, ‘What sign do you show us as Your authority for doing these things?’  Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build the temple; will You raise it up in three days?’  But He was speaking of the temple of His body.”  This is the answer that Jesus gave to the Jews that demanded a sign.  “What sign do You give that You have the authority to disrupt our practice in the temple?”  Later they’re going to ask for another sign, and Jesus gives the same answer.  Matthew 12:38, “Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’  He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and an adulterous generation craves for a sign, yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.  Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’”  “The only sign I’ll ever give,” Jesus said, “is resurrection.”  That’s the sign; that’s what brings redemptive change, a living Savior only.

John 2:19, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  Reformation won’t work.  The only thing that’s going to work is, “I have to raise up a pure temple, and I have to do that by resurrection.”  In this connection, look very carefully at verse 21, “He was speaking of the temple of His body.”  The temple, I said, was a picture, and then I said, “A picture of what?”  Usually we say “the church”, we are the temple, because we are His body.  I know that is a truth of the Bible.  1 Corinthians 12:27, “You are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”  Ephesians 1:22, “He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  We say that the church, the body of Christ, and that’s us, that’s the people.  But my question is, is that what the Holy Spirit had in mind in John 2:21?  He was speaking of the temple of His body.  The temple is a picture of His body, “Destroy this temple, and I’ll raise it in three days.”  He was speaking of Himself.  The temple was a picture of Christ, not His people, in this particular text, because He’s going to rise in three days.

It’s common, and people will say, “I’m going to church,” and I like to say, “You ARE the church.  Church is not a place.  It’s the people of God; we ARE the church.  We are living stones being built into a living temple.  That’s true, as far as it goes, but it’s not the full truth.  It doesn’t go far enough.  Now, I’m going to change.  If someone says, “What is the church?” I’m not going to say, “Me, or you, or us.”  I’m going to say that the church is Christ in union with His people.  The church is Christ, His people in union with Him.  1 Corinthians 12:12, “Even as the body is one and has many members, all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”  Christ is the church in union with You and in union with me.  So, some people say, “I’m not going to church because I am the church,” but not if you’re not in union with Him you’re not.  It’s His church, His people in union with the Lord.  A lot of people use that as an excuse, “I don’t need to gather with the saints because I AM the church.”  Well, only in union with Christ, and if you’re in union with Christ, He’ll guide you as to what to do.  I have an idea it will be to gather with God’s people.  So, that’s the full answer to the question.

When Jesus said in verse 19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” He was speaking of His body, His church in union with Him, I think it’s the same truth that He gave in Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you, you are Peter.  Upon this rock I’ll build My church, and the gates of Haides will not overpower it.”  That expression in John 2, “I will raise it up.”  Matthew 16, “I will build My church.”  I think it’s the same thing.  You want a pure temple?  Reformation won’t work.  What WILL work?  The Living Christ coming out of the grave building His church, and that’s the only thing that’s going to give us a pure church, the church He builds is a pure church.  It’s a waste of time trying to study the early church in the New Testament, and say, “We’re going to model ourselves after this.”  That’s not the real church.  You don’t want to model yourself after anything that man is involved in.  The monstrosity out there called “the church” is in bad shape; it’s sectarian, it’s divisive, it’s critical, it’s formal, it’s not the church.  The church that He’s building is alive and well on the earth.  People say, “The church is in decline.”  Not the church that He’s building.  Not you; He’s the church He’s building.  I’m the church He’s building.  We might look at some structure and say, “That church is in bad shape.”  All over this world He’s building His church; there’s a remnant, there’s a heart, the heart of Jacob, those that seek His face, and that’s the real church.  That’s what He’s talking about.  Reformation doesn’t work.  Jesus said, “I know it’s not going to work, and what will work is to destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again.”

At first, they took His comment literally.  John 2:20, “The Jews said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it in three days?”  This isn’t Solomon’s temple.  Solomon’s temple had been destroyed, and Zerubbabel then rebuilt the temple.  This is Herod’s temple which is Zerubbabel’s temple enlarged and beautified, and it was actually, according to the commentators, was the forty-sixth year of him beautifying this temple.  18,000 people worked for forty-six years rebuilding the temple.  He said, “Destroy the temple, and in three days I’m going to raise it up.”  They said, “18,000 people were working forty-six years, and You think You’re going to raise it in three days?”  The Jews made this statement at the beginning of His ministry, and used that to condemn Him at the end, at His mistrial.  We read in chapter 26:60, “They did not find any,” that is witnesses against Christ, “even though many false witnesses came forward.  But later, two came forward and said, ‘This man stated, “I’m able to destroy this temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”’”  They used that at His mistrial. 

Then, when He was hanging on the cross, they quoted it again.  Matthew 27:39, “And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple, and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself, if You are the Son of God; come down from the cross.’”  I think even though they pretended to apply it to the literal temple, I think they knew He was talking about His resurrection.  The reason I say that is because of Matthew 27:62, “On the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember when He was alive, that deceiver said, “After three days I’m going to rise again.” Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and then the last deception will be worse than the first.’  And Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go, and make it as secure as you know how.’  And they went and made this grave secure and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”  They claim they didn’t understand, but they really knew what He was saying.  Reformation won’t work, and only resurrection will, and He will rise again, and He will build His church, and that will finally satisfy His heart, “My Father’s house will be a house of prayer and a house of praise, and not a den of thieves.”

We’re heading into the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus.  This is very important, and we’re not going to finish it this morning.  I’m going to continue the conversation next week.  I want to make a couple of observations that lead into this conversation.  The first is how chapter two ends.  I’m going to read verse 23-25, “When He was in Jerusalem at the Passover during the Feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing, but Jesus on His part was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, He Himself knew what was in man.”  What does it mean that many believed in His name but Jesus didn’t entrust Himself to them?  They believed in Him, but He didn’t entrust Himself to them.  The reason is because He knew all men; He saw their hearts.  The principle is that He can see the reality; He sees your heart, and He’s not deceived.  He knows your heart.  We can’t play games and fake it with Him.  We can’t pretend we love Him when we don’t, and we trust Him when we’re not trusting Him.  He sees the heart.  We can’t see the heart, so we can be easily deceived.

Some years ago, I was invited to Northern Ireland to have a series of meetings, and so on.  They were so Christian and so wonderful, and my heart was so thrilled.  At the airport as I was leaving, I thanked them for their Christian hospitality.  One brother stood up and said, “You’re mistaken; you have experienced Irish hospitality, not Christian hospitality.”  At that time, and that was years ago, an Irish person would go into debt for a whole year to entertain an American.  They said, “You don’t understand; that was not Christian hospitality.”  But I can’t see the heart, so I committed to them and they committed to me, but that passage that you can believe in Him, and He did not entrust Himself to you, that should make any hypocrite tremble, to just think about that, that we could say all the right words, and yet the Lord not reveal Himself unto us. 

That’s an important transition because in the very next chapter we have Nicodemus and Jesus did commit Himself to Nicodemus, and He did reveal Himself, and for the same reason, because He saw the heart.  Let me show you an indication of that in John 3:2&3, “This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know You’ve come from God as a teacher, and no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”  Doesn’t that sound a little abrupt?  He comes out and he’s being polite and he’s being very complimentary, “We know You’re from God, we see Your work, we know You’re from God,” and then Jesus says, “You’ve got to be born again.”  What’s the transition? 

I believe it’s the first words of chapter three, “Jesus answered,” answered?  He never asked a question.  How could he answer?  What is He answering?  And I’m suggesting that Jesus saw his heart, and there was a question in his heart, and Jesus answered that, because He knew all men, and He could look down into the heart.  Jesus knew the heart of Nicodemus, and He saw that down deep this seeker was crying out, and it probably went something like this, “I’m a Pharisee, and I’m an influential member of the Sanhedrin, and I am well respected, and I’m a priest, and I know the Bible, and I know the traditions, and something is missing.  What’s wrong?  Why isn’t my religion working?”  Jesus saw in his heart the real question, and He answered him, and He said, “I’m going to tell you why.  It’s because you are not born again.”  “Except a man is born again, he can’t see…”  That word “see”.  Do you see it, do you get it, do you understand, do you see it?  It’s not with your eyes; it’s comprehension.  And He said, “Except a man is born again, the questions you have in your heart, you’ll never see until you’re born again.  Except a man is born again, he cannot understand.”  Jesus saw Nicodemus as a genuine seeker which the further history will prove that he was a seeker. 

The conversation with Nicodemus begins with the double “verily”. “Verily, verily, I say unto you…”  Some translations, like the New American, “Truly, truly I say to you…”  Some translations, “Amen, Amen I say unto you…”  It’s a double “Amen”.  The double verily, the double truly, the double Amen is only found in the Gospel of John.  It’s not in Matthew, it’s not in Mark, it’s not in Luke.  They have the “verily” but they don’t have the double verily.  This double verily is used twenty-three times in the Gospel of John. 

One way to get before you the power of the double verily is to contrast it to the Old Testament “selah”.  Are you familiar with that word in the Old Testament.  Seventy-one times in the Psalm when you are reading a verse, and all of a sudden it says “selah”.  I’m working with my wife when we go through the Psalms, she reads out loud and she’ll just go to the next verse.  I say, “Read the “selah”.  Don’t just go over that.  Psalm 3:8, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.  Selah.”  Psalm 24:10, “The Lord of Hosts; He’s the King of glory.  Selah.”  Psalm 50:1, “The heavens declare His righteousness; God Himself is judged.   Selah.”  Over and over again, selah, selah, selah.  It’s actually, according to the scholar, a musical thing.  It had to do with the sheet music, and it actually means “to lift up”.  Either you lift up your voice in praise or you lift up your hands from the instruments; it’s the idea of a rest. 

Here is the difference between the Old Testament selah and the New Testament the double verily.  In the Old Testament the selah, God says something very important, and then says, “Think about that; rest, stop, don’t move nothing, look back at what I just said, God is king, think about that.”  The double verily doesn’t look back.  The double verily looks forward, and it says, “I’m about to say something that you need to meditate on.”  “Verily, verily I say to you that I am the door of the sheep.”  “Verily, verily I say to you, the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those that hear will live.”  The verily, verily points to something important that He’s about to say, the selah said to meditate on what I’ve just said.  There’s one way to get this double verily.

He begins this with a double verily, chapter 3:3, “Jesus answered and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”  “Pay close attention,” He said, “to what I’ve just told you.  The reason why the question is deep in your heart, and you don’t know how to ask it is because it’s not possible for you to understand.  Unless one is born again, he cannot see.  Why do you have those deep unanswered questions and longing in your heart?  Pay attention, pay close attention; I’m about to tell you that you cannot, it’s impossible, you see and cannot perceive.” 

Scholars call attention to the fact that this is the only time in the Gospel of John that the expression “kingdom of God” is used.  Matthew is full of the “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven”, but this is the only time, “Unless you are saved, you are going to live in your kingdom on earth, and you’re not going to understand the things of the kingdom of God.”  There’s one other passing reference in John 18:36, where Pilate says to Jesus, “Are you a king?” and He says, “Yes, my kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom was of this world, my servants would fight.”  That’s the only other reference to kingdom in the Gospel of John.

Nicodemus was totally blind to spiritual things, even though he was religious, he couldn’t understand them; it’s impossible.  Paul taught that same truth in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness to him; he cannot understand them; they’re spiritually appraised.”  As Christians, sometimes we long for people to understand what we’re saying, and we think if we make it simple enough, if we give good illustrations, then they’re going to get it.  “Do you want to know what it means to trust God?  It’s like sitting in a chair.  If you sit in a chair, you can put all your weight on the chair, so you can trust God, and put all your weight on Him.”  You aren’t going to get that.  That sounds like a good, simple illustration.  The Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, one God and not three, “It’s like H2O; it can be solid, or it can be liquid, or it could be a vapor.”  They aren’t going to get that.  You can give the simplest illustrations on the earth, even Bible illustrations are not going to help.  When God says, “Union with the Lord is like marriage,” that’s not going to help.  “A righteous man is like a tree planted by the brooks of water.”  That’s not going to help.  You can’t tell an unsaved person, “You can be fruitful for the Lord, if like a branch you abide in the vine.”  They aren’t going to get that.  They cannot understand, and we need to understand.  I think God has called us to make it simple.  To be honest with you, I sweat bullets trying to make things as simple as I can, because I want to communicate, but if the Holy Spirit doesn’t show you, you’re not going to get it, no matter how simple it is.

Nicodemus didn’t get it.  Jesus used earthly words, and said, “You need to be born again.”  So, Nicodemus says in verse 4, “How can a man be born when he’s old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born again?”  He didn’t get it, and he couldn’t get it.  Let’s say that miracle took place, and God made a way for Nicodemus to go into his mother’s womb and come out again.  I’d feel bad for the woman!  Let’s say God made a way.  What a miracle that would be!  Without Christ he’d die and go to hell after that miracle.  You can’t get it.  The wind was a great illustration, a perfect illustration, because you don’t know its origin and you don’t know it’s destiny, and it’s invisible.  You feel it and you can see the effects of it, and you can see what it’s doing, but so is everyone born of the Spirit.  He didn’t get that.  There’s no way he could get it without being born again.  That which is flesh, verse 6, is flesh, and it will always be flesh, and that which is Spirit is Spirit, and after Jesus gave all these wonderful illustrations, verse 9, Nicodemus said, “How can these things be?”  He didn’t get it; he can’t get it. 

This is not the first time Nicodemus was aware of the new birth.  Last week at the close of the lesson, brother Brandon made a suggestion.  Imagine if Nicodemus when he saw Jesus said, “Have I seen You before?”  And Jesus said, “Yes, when I was twelve years old, and we were in the temple, and you were one of the doctors asking me questions.”  The Bible doesn’t say that, but that’s a possibility.  But I know Nicodemus also knew these truths, because he was an expert on Moses.  Deuteronomy 36, “Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.”  That’s the new birth.  Nicodemus knew that about Moses.  Nicodemus studied Jeremiah 4:4, “Remove the foreskins of your heart, and circumcise yourself to the Lord.”  Nicodemus was an expert in the Old Testament, and he knew the New Covenant in Ezekiel 36:25, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I’ll cleanse you from all your filthiness and from your idols, and I’ll give you a new heart, and I’ll put a new Spirit within you, and I’ll remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh.  I’ll put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statute, and you’ll be careful to observe My ordinances.”  That’s what Jesus said, “You’ve got to be born again,” and Nicodemus was well aware of all of that truth, but he didn’t get it because he wasn’t born again.

Next week we’re going to move a little deeper into this conversation.  Do some of you remember Paul Harvey?  Here’s the rest of the story; here’s the end of the story.  I told you last time that Nicodemus was an expert in the Old Testament, and especially being a Pharisee, an expert on Moses, and Jesus reminded him of Numbers 21, John 3:14, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him, will have eternal life.”  Nicodemus knew that story, and he needed to see, even though to these eyes he was a religious bigwig, he was important, he was a Pharisee, and Jesus is calling attention to the fact, “Nicodemus, you’re nothing but a snake bitten sinner; the poison of snakes is in your veins, and I am the substitute Savior for perishing sinners, and as they looked to the serpent, you need to look to Me.”  He’s giving him this great lesson, because Jesus was going to become sin and be lifted up and it leads to life.

There’s only a few references to Nicodemus after this evening visit.  The most important is the one I’m saying, the end of the story is this.  Nicodemus shows up at the cross, when the Son of Man is being lifted up.  Now, who was a seeker in chapter 3, we see is a believer now in chapter 19:38, “After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate granted permission.  So, he came and took away His body.  Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came bringing a mixture of Myrrh and Aloe, about one hundred pounds of weight.  They took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”  Nicodemus now is no longer a secret disciple, but a lover of the Lord Jesus, and he’s now anointing His body.

I wonder what went through his mind as he stood at the cross looking up at the Son of Man being lifted up?  I think it would be almost impossible not to remember the conversation, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that anyone who believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.”  I can’t believe that he didn’t look up and see the Son of Man, the brass serpent.  In that day, all they had to do was look and live.  I told you that the Bible, this Book of John, was written, “That you might know the Lord, trust the Lord, and enjoy the Lord.”  How easy is it?  We saw last week who Jesus was.  He’s the substitute Savior for perishing, snake bitten sinners.  But what’s faith?  The answer is looking.  Later, it will be drinking, and it will be coming, and it will be believing, but now it’s just looking; look and live.  That was the message that Moses gave.

I think you’re all familiar with the name Charles Spurgeon.  Spurgeon gives his testimony.  He was fifteen years old and the year was 1850, which is 274 years ago, and on his way, he doesn’t say where he was going, but he got lost.  It was a snowstorm, a terrible snow storm.  In the snowstorm as a fifteen year old, he heard music and singing, so he followed the voices and it was an old, primitive Methodist church, and when he went in he said, “There weren’t more than twelve people in the church.”  The storm was so bad that the pastor didn’t show up.  There was a shoemaker, a very tall, thin, man, and uneducated, and he stood up and opened his Bible and he said, “The pastor is not coming, so I’m going to preach.” He took Isaiah 45:22, the King James Version says, “Look to me.”  This says, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.”  It’s interesting to read his testimony, because the preacher stood, and there were only a dozen people in the church, and Spurgeon said that he sat way in the back, and this guy takes what Spurgeon called his “boney finger” and pointed to him, and said, “You look miserable, young man, and you are going to stay miserable, and you are going to die miserable, unless you look to Jesus, ‘Look to Me and be saved, to the ends of the earth.’  You need to look to Jesus in Bethlehem, you need to look to Jesus in Gethsemane, you need to look to Jesus on the cross, you need to look to Jesus risen from the dead, you need to look to Jesus who is now seated at the Father’s right hand.  He wants to come into your heart.  Don’t look to yourself, young man.  Don’t look to your works, young man.  Don’t look to your church, young man.”  He went on and on, and said, “Look, look, look and be saved.”  Spurgeon said, and I’ll quote him, “I looked until I could have looked my eyes away, in heaven I will look again with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

 What is faith?  I want to give an illustration.  This is not in the Bible.  It’s imagination, but I want to close with this.  I want you to imagine the days of Moses.  John wrote this so we would know the Lord.  What is faith?  Faith is looking, greatly illustrated in Numbers 21.  Imagine a young child now in his tent in the wilderness, and he had been bitten by one of the serpents, and the poison of that reptile was going through his veins, and he was fading away, and was dying.  His family is frantic, and they’re trying to do what they could do.  They probably brought cold water for his head.  I don’t know in those days what they did.  Maybe the father would cut the wound and try of suck the poison out.  I don’t know.  But while their emergency continues, outside the tent there are great cries in the camp, cries of those who have bitten, cries of those who are dying, and also cries of testimony.  Moses is preaching at the top of his lungs, “Look and live, look and live, look at the brass serpent, and you are going to live.”  I don’t know if he’s carrying the pole or if he had it planted in the ground.  I don’t know, but added to his pleading, “Look and live,” are the testimonies of those who did, and they’re saying, “I looked.  I lived.  It worked!  Praise God,” and they’re just rejoicing and rejoicing.  “My brother didn’t believe it.  He thought it was stupid to look at a serpent, and he died.”  Finally, they get the message, “Look and live, look and live,” and they say to their son, “Son, let’s go out where the brass serpent is, so that you can look and live.  Come, son,” and he says, “I can’t; I’m so weak I can’t walk.”  So, the father grabs him in his arms and they come and stand underneath the pole lifted up and says, “Look, look and live,” and he said, “Father, I can’t turn my head.”  So, the father turns his head, and says, “Look.”  He said, “I’m too weak, and I can’t open my eyes.”  So, the mother just takes the eyes and opens the eyes, and the next moment he’s on his feet and full of strength. 

That’s how simple it is, and that’s what Jesus was saying, and that’s what Nicodemus did.  He looked and he lived, and he was saved, and it was a wonderful, wonderful message.  Moses’ people, their sin was murmuring.  Moses didn’t say, “Look what you did; you shouldn’t have been murmuring.”  He didn’t tell them, “We need to be aware of the subtleties of the serpent.  Here is how to avoid the serpent.”  He didn’t give them a lecture like that.  He just said, “Look, and live.”  And he looked, and he lived.  Nicodemus looked, and he lived.  John said, “I’m writing this so that you’ll know who I am.  I’m the substitute Savior for perishing sinners.”  What’s faith?  It’s just looking; look to Jesus, until you look your eyes away.  Look to Jesus.

Father, thank You for Your precious word.  Thank You for this conversation You had with Nicodemus, and that it’s recorded in the Bible, so that we can know, we can hear and we can learn.  Make these truths real, and we pray that if there’s any change in our lives, may it be redemptive change.  We thank You, Lord, for Your Holy Spirit who will make these things real for us.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.