1. Lesson One of the Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Book of Daniel

Jesus’ Conversation with Nicodemus, Part I, John 3:1-21

John 3:1-21, There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

This is the first of 11 conversations of our Lord recorded by John in his Gospel. 


The man Nicodemus, a Jew with a Greek name meaning “victorious among his people”, and also a ruler of the Jews, was most likely a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest national governing council of the Jews in Roman times. 


John does not mention his title of ruler to impress the reader but perhaps to show the mental hindrance that Nicodemus had to overcome in order for the meeting with Jesus to take place.


Now some scholars say there were two Sanhedrins. 


The 23 members of the political and civil Sanhedrin came mostly from the Sadducees. 


The 70 members of the religious Sanhedrin presided over by the high priest, were chosen largely from the Pharisees, of which Nicodemus, we are told, was a member. 


The Pharisees’ were strict about all matters pertaining to the keeping of the law: the Sabbath, tithing, circumcision, ceremonial cleanliness, eating only certain foods, fasting, and the observation of holy days. 


They maintained that the oral law was as necessary and as binding as the written law and they were therefore the champions of those traditions of the elders denounced by Christ. 


To their credit they believed in the inspiration of the Old Testament, the coming of the Messiah, miracles, and they, opposite to the belief of the Sadducees, believed in the resurrection. 


But even so Jesus was tried before the religious Sanhedrin. 


After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. the council declined and finally disappeared.


Since Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, he most likely was one of the 70 members of the religious Sanhedrin. 


From this passage we can see that he came to Jesus in darkness (by night), lacking spiritual discernment even though he was a religious man, and dead in trespasses and sins, and needed to be born again, regardless of whether or not he was a ruler of the Jews.


The condition of Nicodemus was typical of the highest ecclesiastical court in Israel. 


In John 1:21 and 26 we see priests blind to the things of God, in John 2:3, we see Israel a joyless nation, in John 2:16, we see a desecrated temple and now in this passage we see a spiritually dead Sanhedrin. 


One thing unique to Nicodemus and not typical of the members of the Sanhedrin is that Nicodemus may have been the only one to visit Jesus and to find out for himself who Jesus was. 


Perhaps he was a sincere seeker of truth.


He seems to have been able to think apart from the group and to make his own judgments about Jesus Christ. 


This visit by night reveals to us that he did not adopt the prejudice of the group to which he was beholden.  

He certainly was a rare individual in that regard for most people hide in group think, that being a very comfortable place to hide for it requires little if any thinking.


Perhaps Nicodemus had been impressed by the signs which he may have seen or heard of, and the cleansing of the temple, without realizing the deeper significance of these events, but by his visit we see in him a sincere willingness to learn more. 


Jesus responded by trusting him and giving him the truth contained in this passage.


John is very consistent in his gospel to attach to the name of Nicodemus the phrase, "he that came to Jesus by night", on the three occasions Jesus mentions him in scripture:  here in verse two and in John 7:50 and John 19:39. 


Why mention something if it is not important? 


Did Nicodemus come at night because he was a busy man?  


Did he come at night so he could avoid the crowds and have time with Jesus alone and apart from the daytime activity?  


Or was it that Nicodemus came at night because he was ashamed to be seen coming to Jesus?


Did he approach Jesus secretly, under cover of darkness because of fear?  


Perhaps he was not sure about seeing this man. 


Being a ruler of the Jews he had his reputation to consider. 


But we should not find fault with Nicodemus regarding his secretiveness because the most important thing is that he was interested in seeing Jesus and learning more about Him.


The bottom line, in the light of eternity is that Nicodemus did come to Jesus, and was given the truth by our Lord himself.


It is not the time of day, nor the season of the year that is important, or the method of coming, but what is important is that he came to Jesus in spite of his position of power. 

In reality we all come to Jesus by night. 

The sinner is in darkness and in him is no light at all.

We bring no light for all light is in Christ.

William T. Sleeper captured this thought when he wrote this familiar hymn.

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.


Jesus is the light and in him is no darkness at all. 


When we are in him we too are light. 


Nicodemus found out how dark he was when he came to the light. 


He thought he was in the light until he came to Jesus.


Perhaps John, in reporting that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, is giving us a comparison of Nicodemus' first timid response in coming to Jesus to his later boldness in reprimanding the Sanhedrin.


And later his courage in accompanying Joseph of Arimathea in the preparation of Christ's body for the entombment of Christ. 


This visit to Jesus resulted in fruit in the life of Nicodemus since these accounts appear to reveal that Nicodemus had indeed received Jesus Christ and been given power to become a son of God. 


Note here in our passage that Nicodemus, a ruler or leading teacher of the Jews, calls Jesus “Rabbi”, which means Master or teacher. 


Coming from a noted ruler who did not misuse so honored a title this was indeed a mark of respect considering that Jesus did not belong to any of the approved schools of higher learning,  


Note also the use of the plural "we" in verse 2. 


Nicodemus used the phrase "We know."  


Was Nicodemus trying to hide behind a group and not commit himself to expressing his own opinion? 


How often we use the term "we" to express to others that we are not alone in our opinion but there are many others who stand with us. 


We abhor the idea of standing for something alone. 


So we use the corporate "we."  Be careful when you say “We believe” for you cannot be sure of that unless you are a mind reader.


But Jesus draws him from the security of the group. 


Jesus did not say to Nicodemus, "Your group must be born again", He said, "Ye must be born again." 


The Word of God is quick, and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword!


But before this Nicodemus says, "We know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."


Nicodemus was wrong. 


This statement reveals the spiritual wasteland in which Jesus was ministering. 


Here, we see a ruler of the Jews having such superficial reasoning and little discernment along with a poor understanding of the scriptures. 


The scriptures warn us to test the spirits, whether they be of God. 


The magicians of Egypt were, up to a point, able to duplicate the miracles of Moses. 


Satan has power to perform miracles and sometimes bestows this power on his angels of light. 


We are warned of the Antichrist in II Thess. 2:9, Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.  


We are exhorted to "believe not the spirits, but to try the spirits whether they be of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world. I John 4:1.


No, we are not to test those who come in the name of Christ by their personal character or ability to perform miracles but they must be tested by the Word of God. 


No matter how wonderful his personality, or how pleasing, or how marvelous the results of his ministry is, we are admonished to test the man by the Word of God.


Christ ignores Nicodemus' statement. 


He knows that Nicodemus is not yet prepared by the Holy Spirit to be taught. 


Nicodemus does not need Jesus, the teacher. 


Nicodemus needs Jesus the Savior! 


The sinner cannot come to Jesus to be taught, he must come to be saved and then comes the teaching. 


A saved person is a person who is fit to teach. 


As we saw in verse 2:24, Jesus does not commit himself to them because he did not trust them, he knew what was in their hearts.  


As it says in Luke 8:10, "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of God, but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.


Jesus uses a prepared vessel to work the works of God!


Therefore he ignores Nicodemus attempt to endear himself to him by his courteous and perhaps flattering compliments and we hear him say in:


Verse 3:3,......Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.