Jesus and Nicodemus, Part 2: That Whoever Believes in Jesus

Brian Mahon - 11/7/2021


Call to worship: Numbers 21:4-9

Text: John 3:9-21


The all-critical conversation continues between Nicodemus and Jesus. Jesus has told him about the necessity of the new birth for entering the Kingdom of God, as well as the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in bringing it, mysteriously but visibly, about. The teaching, however biblical, befuddles this great teacher of Israel. How can this happen?, he asks. Jesus finds his response incredible---and *unbelieving. If he can't get the new birth, how can he believe in the *crucifixion of the divine Christ for the salvation of the world? As only Jesus can, as One from Heaven, He reveals the redemptive plan of Heaven, historically prefigured in the account of the brazen serpent. Christ escalates the story, and John goes still further in his meditation upon it for us. The *atonement is the *gracious manifestation of the *love of God for a dreadfully *evil world. It has no greater expression than the saving death of His Son for sinners. The *responsibility is laid upon us to believe in Him. His *salvation implies *judgment for all who do not believe in Him. The root of unbelief is a love of sin and, ironically, a fear of judgment. The text exists to counteract that fear. The Judge is first the Savior. In contrast to the habit of the unbeliever, the born again, the believer in Christ, will make a habit of *living in the light. They fear no judgment. Love has won in their hearts, and they long only for God to be displayed and *glorified in their lives.

Sermon Outline

  1. The dark fruit: an object lesson in unbelief, 3:9-12.
  2. Heaven opened upon it: divine love chiefly manifest in saving grace, 3:13-18.
  3. Man's self-judgment: hating this Light for the blinded-love of sin, 3:19-20.
  4. The fruit of new Life: openly glued to Jesus for God's glory, 3:21.


Discussion Questions

  1. Read John 2:23-3:21. What is Nicodemus' response to Jesus' teaching about the new birth? How would you characterize it? How does our Lord hear it? What does He then deem a suitable response? What might it mean that Nicodemus is the teacher of Israel? And how does that play into Jesus' response? How can one be the primary Bible-teacher and be completely ignorant of the new birth? Is Jesus' teaching on the new birth new to Him? Who might the 'we' be in 3:11, with whom Jesus identifies Himself? Can flesh rise above itself to believe heavenly things? Consider 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.
  2. In 3:13, what does Jesus disclose about His self-understanding? What does His unique Person mean to communicate about our ability to perceive heavenly truth, say, God's ordained method of redeeming a world of sinners by way of the glorious crucifixion of the divine Messiah? If that truth is above earth, how do we have it? And how does that confirm the identity of Jesus? And how is it an apologetic for the truth of the biblical Gospel?
  3. In 3:14-18, Jesus discloses 'heavenly things.' It's the gate of Heaven itself. Read Numbers 21:4-9. How does Jesus relate and also escalate that account with respect to Who He is and what He's come to do? How does John take it even further in 3:16 for the Christians of his day and into our own? How many wonders sparkle for you in that glorious verse, John 3:16? What is the first cause of our salvation? Out of what does the cross of Christ overflow to us? How might we measure His love in this verse? What was the Son's mission at first? Why do you think John is compelled to put 3:17-18 to writing? Do we always so easily believe in this boundless love of God, even as believers?
  4. In 3:19-20, John speaks of a judgment. What is it? Is it future? Present? Is it discernible? How so? Why do people hate the Light? Put another way, what is the real root of unbelief? What do we discover in these verses that gives insight into the workings of the devil in a person's heart? Even if they say they don't believe in judgment, do they intuitively? Why else will they not come to the light? How does Jesus, and John 3:16-17 in particular, serve as a divine remedy to this devilish misapprehension? Think on it this way: did Adam and Eve do well to run from God? What did they need to see that sin and Satan, then, prevented them from seeing? That the Judge is first a, what?
  5. In contrast to those who do wickedly (and perhaps Nicodemus is always indicted here for his approach in the night), we get 3:21. What do you think is the general idea of this closing verse? How does it fit to end the Nicodemus pericope (section of the book)? How does it relate to the new birth and faith in Jesus?
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