Jesus and Nicodemus, Part 1: You Must Be Born Again

Brian Mahon - 10/31/2021


Call to worship: Ezekiel 36:22-28

Text: John 2:23-3:8


Still Passover. Jesus has done a lot of signs, and a lot of people have believed in Him. We expect this to be a joyful note. It's *not. This 'belief' is met with skepticism by Jesus Himself. Jesus knows all people. Jesus *knew what was 'in Man,' and it's not at all flattering. It's the deceptive effects of the Fall. John gives us a 'case in point.' Nicodemus was 'a man' with a lot of good things going for him in the eyes of Man. But Jesus tells this 'man' that he needs to be *born again. Proving his spiritual blindness, he doesn't get it. Jesus clarifies. He needs to be born of water and the Spirit. *Flesh can only produce flesh. Only the *Spirit can produce spirit, i.e., divine life in the soul of 'a man.' The new birth is not something we can bring about for ourselves. Only God can do this. Still, we 'must be born again.' This is a *sovereign, gracious, and evident work of the Holy Spirit. Like the wind, He comes and goes and blows wherever He wishes---and where He does, the newly born person becomes *proof positive of it. It shows---first and foremost in urgent repentance and *true faith in Jesus Christ (which we'll emphasize next week).

Sermon Outline:
  1. John's alarm: the reality of an unbelieving 'faith,' 2:23-3:2.
    • This reality narrated, 2:23-25.
    • This reality exhibited, 3:1-2.
  2. Jesus' answer to it: 'You must be born again,' 3:3-8.
    • The eternal necessity of the new birth, 3:3-7.
      • Seeing and entering, 3:3-5.
      • Flesh and Spirit, 3:6-7.
    • The Spirit's sovereignty in the new birth, 3:8.
    • The personal visibility of the born again, 3:8.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Read John 2:23-3:8. It is the first half of Jesus' all-critical conversation with Nicodemus. Is there anything we should aim to know more or better than our Lord's teaching on what's necessary for entering the Kingdom of God?
  2. To what does 2:23-25 alert us? You may want to read John 8 with it. What does it affirm about Jesus? Who does know hearts (1 Kings 8:39)? What does Jesus know about some hearts? What is 'in Man'? What does it mean that Jesus would not entrust Himself to them (look back at 1:12-13)? How does John relate this alarming reality to 'the man' called Nicodemus? How does he describe Nicodemus, and what impression is he meaning to give us?
  3. How does Jesus respond to Nicodemus? Does He perceive him to be a real believer? What does Jesus declare in 3:3 by the phrase 'born again'? What does this birth alone enable? Does Nicodemus understand what Jesus means? If not, is it for lack of smarts? Study-time? Or spiritual sight? How does Jesus respond to Nicodemus' 'marvel'?
  4. In 3:5, what is the same and what is different than in 3:3? Is this another birth? What's meant by 'born of water and spirit'? Again, is that two things or one thing? Best to read it, in my view, in light of the New Covenant promises of Ezekiel 36:22-28. Read that passage along with Titus 3:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11a. Remember, Jesus is meaning to clarify what He's already said to this Pharisee and is amazed that he doesn't know exactly to what Jesus is referring (3:10-11).
  5. In 3:6-7, Jesus continues to speak on the necessity of the new birth. Can flesh produce spirit? What can flesh produce? What does this mean for every human being?, that only the Spirit can produce spirit, that is, spiritual life? If we marvel at this, what might that say about us? Can we control a sudden rush of wind (3:8)? Can we control this operation of the Holy Spirit? Can we see the effects of the wind? What of this gracious work of the Spirit in people's souls? What is the first effect of it (see 3:9-16)? What are other effects of the new birth in a person's life?
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