Jesus Knows What Is in Man
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
You Must Be Born Again
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. – John 2:23-3:13 ESV
All knowing soverenty
The opening of this section is the stepping stone to chapter 3 and really makes it clear Jesus approach to mankind. Jesus knew that a temporary excitement of a faith based on signs was not sufficient. many of the early followers later turned back when He did not take up the role of political king. Later in the book of John we will see…
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. – John 6:15,60,66
Chapter 2 ends with
24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. – John 2:24-25
From this concept John’s letter becomes a narrative of a series of encounters with various people, such as Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and others. In all of these meetings to come Jesus pierces the hearts of the ones whom He speaks and indicates that He knew what was going on in their lives. We know from the other synoptic Gospels that from time to time Jesus makes it very apparent that He knows what the people are thinking, what their motivation is and truly how their heart is established. We will notice in the following weeks how Jesus deals with these individuals, and how He really deals with their heart, not their mind.
We read in this opening section of chapter 3 about a man that approaches Jesus, one-on-one. It is quite interesting that Jesus would actually be alone. Maybe His new disciples were nearby, but that is not disclosed. We know that He was moving about and we are sure that they wanted to keep up with Him. It is evening and He has come on the scenes of Jerusalem and made it clear He was a very different man. A bold man, a man with vision and purpose.
If you had the opportunity to pull up a chair with Jesus alone, what would it be like? What would be your opening words? What would be the goal of your conversation?
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” – John 3:1-2
This brief introduction tells us that Nicodemus was a man of high authority in the religious leadership of Israel. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jewish people. Not all of the Pharisees were elevated to membership in the Sanhedrin; those who served on this council were much like Senators in our present-day United States.
The whole situation of the meeting happening at night has had countless sermons preached and commentary written. Some indicate he came at night to see Jesus because he was bashful and wanted to seek wisdom from Jesus without being embarrassed publicly. Others ideas are that socializing in the evening was common and it was just standard practice to meet up in the cool evening. Yet others indicate that between Nicodemus being busy during the Passover and Jesus being the center of attention during the day, it was the only available time they could be intimate together.
What are some of the reasonings and thoughts you have heard about the meeting in the night?
There are many details that can be laid out about one story or the other, but the truth of scripture can be laid out, regardless of the motivation. The words that Nicodemus uses in addressing Jesus reveals a lot.
“Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that Yu do unless God is with him” – John 3:2 ESV
The use of the words “we know” in his greeting makes it evident that Nicodemus represents many. He most likely was involved in discussions with other Pharisees regarding Jesus. In a paraphrase he is saying; “Jesus, we leaders can see that you’re a bona fide teacher. You deserve the title Rabbi, and we are prepared to welcome you into our club”. Nicodemus is making it clear that he and the council are aware of Jesus and His activities. He goes on to state “no one can do these signs”, and that reveals the fact that Jesus was doing more then just making water into wine. There were most likely a variety of signs and wonders that just did not get captured in Scripture.
How did Jesus respond to this welcome in the night?
Well, He was not flattered. He did not say “I really appreciate that; I’m glad that you noticed all that I have done and that you’re willing to welcome Me into your club.” No, Jesus didn’t even so much as say “Thank You”.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3
Why don’t you think Jesus responded in such an odd way as this?
for he himself knew what was in man. – John 2:25b
He knew Nicodemus’ motivation for the meeting. He knew Nicodemus’ heart. He was not going to play around with kind words and enable small talk. Jesus was not interested in being politically correct. He was interested in the truth and in redemption.
With this truth before us, how do you think the dialog with Jesus would have been when you approached Him? What is going on in your heart? Is your heart in alignment with your motivations lately? Are you just going through the motions? Are you in doubt, fear or discord?
Jesus cuts right to the heart with Nicodemus with His response: Truly, truly; Very truly; Verily, verily or Most assuredly, Jesus responds. These words set the stage for what was to follow. There are many different ways translations capture Jesus words, and in essence He was declaring: “Pay attention Nick, what I’m about to tell you is the unvarnished truth” What was the absolute, important thing Nicodemus was going to follow with?
unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. – John 3:3b
When Jesus came on the scene in His earthly ministry, He came announcing the radical breakthrough of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God refers to heaven, to the home and abode where the reign of God is made manifest. Only those who are members of the family of God, those who are members of the invisible church, those who are truly converted, those who are truly in Christ, will come into that kingdom; everyone else will miss it.¹
When we see the word “unless” in scripture, we need to pay close attention. It signals a necessary condition, something that has to happen before some desired consequence will follow. In this case, the necessary condition is the new birth, and the desired consequence is seeing the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus, much like me and maybe you, responds with his brain. He hears the words Jesus shares and he processes it and then attempts to respond in a very logical way. Nicodemus is flexing his absolute knowledge right back at Jesus and not fully understanding where Jesus is coming from. Nicodemus has the interchange with Jesus fully locked on the physical world, the nature birth of a child, when Jesus was speaking of the spiritual plane.
How would you respond to a person that comes to you with the question of being born again?
Many individuals today declare themselves “born-again Christians” and if we pause and grasp the concept, we question the statement. The term, however, is a kind of stuttering, because “born-again Christian” is really a redundancy. It’s like speaking about an “unmarried bachelor” or a “three-sided triangle”. All bachelors are unmarried and all triangles have three sides. The simple reality is this: everyone who is truly a Christian is born again. There are no other kinds of true Christians. There are plenty of unregenerate church members and plenty of unregenerate people who profess to be Christians, but a person cannot be in Christ unless he or she is regenerate.
Francis Schaeffer summarizes the experience of being reborn, and it is not some sugar coating of putting on the clean clothes and going to a building on Sundays with a book under your arm.
When a person says “I’m a born-again Christian” they really mean that they are a converted person. They are not just professing faith. They are saying that they are not just a member of a church. Rather, they are declaring that they have experienced, a supernatural transformation of their should and have been brought from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. That is what it means to be regenerate.
Truthful, loving response
Jesus did not react to Nicodemus’ insulting reply, but neither did he back down.
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:5-8
Jesus reiterates his first statement. He expands and attempts to explain to Nicodemus that it is not the physical birth but the spiritual birth He is referring to. The next level Jesus talks about is not merely seeing the kingdom of God, but in verse 5 He now talks about entering the kingdom. He now talks about becoming a part of the kingdom of God, being adopted, included.
According to the Old Testament prophets, particularly Ezekiel, the people of God needed two things they had to be purified and they had to be resurrected rected by the power of God. It seems like this is what Jesus said to Nicodemus. It was as if He said: “Nicodemus, everybody who is unregenerate is impure and spiritually dead, and as long as a person is impure and spiritually dead, he can never enter the kingdom of God. To enter the kingdom of God, a person must be purified and must be raised from spiritual death. He has to be cleansed and raised by the power of the Holy Spirit”
In the context of the message, I believe the reference to water does not have to do with baptism, but to the cleansing of the person, a washing. That is the way these images were used in the Jewish conversations, the cleansing rituals and purification processes. I think his message to Nicodemus was “no one who has not been purified by God and raised from spiritual death will ever enter the kingdom of God.”
Jesus goes into detail about the concept it can only be done by God, the spirit. Man cannot regenerate a person. God has to be involved. This was a common mistake the Jews made, as well as people today make. The Jews thought that just because they were in the line of Abraham, they were automatically entered into the kingdom of God. Much like many we may encounter, because of ancestors, or the area one lives in, they believe they are entitled the kingdom of God.
Can you relate to the difference of the desire to be different and the regenerate nature?
With loving compassion
We must not leave here today with condemnation or a judgmental spirit. We are not the one to declare if one is regenerate or not. Our position should be to love His people and pray for each person’s salvation. Being willing to sit with the reborn as well as the lost. We cannot fully understand the inner relationship of a soul with God, but we can have compassion and empathy. Lend an ear to those that are seeking. Provide honest insight to what you have experienced. Share what God has done in your life, knowing that each person is unique and every relationship with God is not the same. What happened to you, what flipped your switch might not do it for the next person. We pray for God’s intercession with each soul.
We don’t know the conversations we will have. Whether we receive His wisdom or share it. May we grasp the truth that relationships are a blessing. Both challenging and rewarding. He provides our souls with the desire to have relationships and the brokenness of this world leaves many of us in disarray and confusion, seeking more than ourselves. Engage, boldly believing in the truth you have read and have faith in.
- R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary). Kindle Edition.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.