Nicodemus comes to Jesus saying, “I think I’ve found the answer as to who You are. You are, no doubt, a teacher sent by God.” Jesus’ response? In essence, “You haven’t seen clearly yet.” This must have been a humbling experience, like the student raising his hand in class to answer the math problem, only to be told he is wrong. But in His perfect love, Jesus labors throughout the conversation to get him to the right answer.
First, He shows the man his need: “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus could see authoritative teaching and miraculous signs of God’s approval, but the most essential, crucial thing remained unseen. To be born again, born of the Spirit, has everything to do with seeing who Jesus really is, and believing.
Jesus says, I’m not just a teacher, but I descended from heaven, so I’m the only one with authority to tell about it (3:13). I’m not just a teacher, but I’m like Moses’ serpent in the wilderness: whoever sees who I am, and believes, will live eternally (3:15). I’m not just a teacher; I’m the Father’s one and only plan to save the world (3:17). I’m not just a teacher, but each person’s response to Me alone determines whether they are judged of forgiven (3:18). I’m not just a teacher, but when I came into this world, Light came into a world of darkness (3:19). No one who is merely a “good teacher” can say these things without committing blasphemy.
So what hinders people from coming to the Light, so they can have eternal life? It is love for the darkness, shown by evil deeds, that keeps people from Jesus (3:19). But haven’t we all sinned? Are we not all in need of mercy and forgiveness, due to evil deeds? Yes, but not all of us love the darkness. Salvation begins with a change of heart and mind; the unhealthy and destructive loves in our lives must be replaced and kicked out by a far greater Love that brings healing and life.
“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (3:21). The Lord’s concluding words cannot mean that everyone who comes to the Light is sinless. None are! But what was the preparation for coming to the Light? John the Baptist came, “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). I imagine many sinners, many prostitutes, rebellious youth, tax collectors, drunkards, and the like, experiencing a Power drawing on their hearts that they had never known before. They had lived in the darkness, but Someone was wooing them to love it no more! Suddenly, they began to sense that, “In the water, He can wash me clean.”
At first, one who “practices the truth” may simply say, “I’m going out to the river to be baptized.” She might say, “I need to pray to Jesus,” or, “I’m going to church, because this lifestyle is empty.” At first, it means saying, “yes,” to the calling and drawing of God. After that, anyone can see that our deeds have been formed “in God” not in ourselves! We begin to obey God. We begin to live like Jesus, to love like Jesus, sometimes little by little. Soon, Jesus has made “all things new” in us, and we can take no credit for it! Honest onlookers say, “God must have done that.” We present to Him an available vessel, a clean slate, and He says, “You are My workmanship, created for good works in Christ Jesus, which I have prepared for you to walk in.”
The Rock Church