Jesus is the Real Rabbi

October 14th, 2018 sermon
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor

 John 3:1-21

The Apostle John reveals through the conversation of Nicodemus and Jesus (John 3:1-21) that the REAL Rabbi (teacher) is not Nicodemus, but is Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man. Nicodemus may have taught the Jewish law for those seeking God’s acceptance and forgiveness, but Jesus taught ultimate Truth about how to please God and have a relationship with Him here on earth and in heaven, through our turning to His love and mercy.

I. The Credential Required for God’s Kingdom : You must be born again.

Jesus clearly teaches that the one requirement to enter the Kingdom of God is new birth: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (Jn.3:3) This “no one” includes ALL people in history (even Nicodemus), today (even ourselves), and future generations worldwide. No matter who you are or what you have done, you must be born again. Going to church does not make you a Christian anymore than being in a garage makes you a car.

What does “born again” mean?

  1. “Born again” means starting all over, not polishing up what we have already done, and realizing that we will always fall short with our efforts never being enough.
  2. “Born again” means being made spiritually alive. Our first birth is physical, but our second birth, for our relationship with God, is spiritual.  Now we can talk with God, seek and obey His guidance daily. We know we have this relationship when we see its effects in our lives (just like the wind, Jn.3:8) even though we might not understand or control it.
  3. “Born again” means believing in Jesus.  Just as the Israelites looked to Moses’ uplifted snake in the wilderness to forgive their sins (Jn.3:11-15), we are to look to Jesus & believe

II. The Cause:  We are all broken and need God’s mercy.

After Jesus completes his conversation with Nicodemus, the writer John continues to explain what exactly we are to believe if we desire to live in the Kingdom of God (Jn.3:16-20). Our part is to trust that the Gospel (Good News) is actually true: God in His love sent His only Son to save us from the punishment of our sins and bring us to the light of His Truth for our lives. God clearly knows we are all broken (Jn.3:16-21), but for His part, He offers His love in saving us once and for all by Jesus, and helping to change and energize us through the Spirit of Jesus (Holy Spirit) here daily on earth and eternally.

Prayer: If we need to be born again, if we need Jesus to help us to change our lives, may we turn to Him in recognition that we are not all that we were made to be, and in belief of Jesus’ death and resurrection, offer him all of ourselves.  If we are already followers of Jesus, may we regularly turn to His Spirit in gratefulness for our forgiveness and in eagerness to experience the light of His power and guidance in our daily lives.

Discussion Questions

  1. The phrase “Born again” was confusing to Nicodemus, and is still problematic with many folks today.  Can you use new words to express what Jesus is requiring of us?
  2. What exactly does “believing” mean when John says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one & only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn.3:16)  What does our will and the idea of repentance have to do with “believing”?
  3. Can you confess Christ as Lord with your tongue, but not let Him be Lord of your Life? Are you saved?
  4. On a scale of 1-10, what is your confidence level in: what Jesus has done, the truth of the Bible, where you will spend eternity?  Explain when possible.
  5. How does Jesus’ abundant life show itself in your life?  Specific examples if possible.
  6. In this current very physical world of brokenness and shortcomings, what does the Gospel have to offer you or those around you that is truly “Good News”?

Introduction

Hendrik Vanderwesthuizen was very excited about moving his family and immigrating to the US. Hendrik was an Afrikaans farmer, meaning he was a white African from Dutch ancestry who was from the Chinhoyi area of Zimbabwe. Hendrik and his wife, Rene, were friends of our family. We had heard of them through Hendrik’s brother, who had immigrated to our hometown in Kansas. We had had Hendrik over for a meal and had gotten to know him.

He was a sweet guy! Now Kelley and I and our kids were back in Kansas, excitedly awaiting the arrival of the Vanderwesthuizen family. His brother had given us regular updates. We knew that Hendrik planned to immigrate. We knew he had an immigration lawyer. We knew that the lawyer had told Hendrik all he needed to do was get in the country, so they could get the ball rolling on his immigration.

We weren’t worried about Hendrik being accepted. He had lots of great credentials. His employment credentials were great. He was a hard worker, but not just as a laborer. He was a successful businessman, so he would be a productive citizen. He had great financial credentials.  He had sold everything he owned and was bringing tens of thousands of dollars with him, so he had plenty to get started. He had lodging for his family. His relatives and friends were all set for him. And maybe most importantly, he was immigrating for the right reasons. He wasn’t just trying to get rich. Rather he had been imprisoned multiple times by the dictatorship of Zimbabwe for his political beliefs. He was truly a political refugee. In short, Hendrik had everything that we would normally think would make him desirable as a resident of this country. He had tons of great credentials.

So we were shocked when the phone rang one Friday morning and Hendrik’s sister-in-law asked us to pray, because there was a serious problem. Hendrik was at the Atlanta Airport and,  apparently, the lawyer had told him to get the wrong kind of visa. When the immigration official saw everything he was bringing into the country, he started asking Hendrik a lot of questions. Hendrik, who was honest as the day is long, answered in his broken English and said the wrong combination of words. Now they had him and his family in custody, and they were preparing to deport them and send Hendrik back to Zimbabwe where he was persona non grat,  all because he lacked one piece of paper!

Over the next few hours, a lot of phone calls, and prayers and pleading with US immigration occurred. Kelley called and spoke with immigration, explaining the danger Hendrik was in. Hendrik’s lawyer called and tried to explain his case. Our friend, Gracia Burnham, who was very well connected called. Finally, Gracia Todd Tiahrt, our US congressman, got involved and called immigration personally; and with that, it seemed at last the tide had turned.

Except it didn’t. In the end, immigration told Kelley that if people didn’t stop calling they weren’t going to be able to process this, and Hendrik and Rene were going to be separated from their kids and thrown in jail. Then they flagged his passport on the computer and put his family on a plane and Hendrik and his family were never allowed into the place they so desperately wanted to go. All because he didn’t have the right piece of paper, the right visa. Hendrik had lots of important credentials, but he didn’t have the right credential, the one credential he needed to go where he wanted to go. How tragic!

Today, we are continuing in our study of John’s gospel called “More than just a nice guy.” Today, Jesus is going to talk about credentials. He’s going to talk to a man who wants to enter God’s kingdom , a man who, like my friend Hendrik, seemed to have lots of impressive credentials. Jesus is going to talk to him and to us about the one credential that matters most, the only credential you have to have to go to heaven. Today we are going to look at the story of Jesus and a man called Nicodemus. So let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to John 3:1-21.

As we look at this passage, let me say there are lots of little details and intricacies of this passage that are hard to understand. There are some that I still don’t understand after studying it! But the basic message of John 3:1-21 is very clear. So today, we are going to look at that basic message, and we’ll see two simple things:

  1. What the right credential is, what is the one thing that Jesus said will get us access to heaven to God’s kingdom?
  2. Why? We’re going to look at why that credential is necessary.

So you could say today we will look at the credential and the cause. As we look at that today, I have a very simple goal. I want you to ask yourself if you have that credential. I don’t want you to worry about other people or the details of the passage. Just ask yourself “Do I have what Jesus say I have to have to enter God’s Kingdom?”

So let’s read John 3:1-21. Actually, we’re going to back up a couple of verses and start our reading at 2:23 just to get some necessary background. This story takes place right after Jesus has cleansed the temple:

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

– John 2:23-35

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the judgment: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

– John 3:1-21

This first thing we are going to look at today is the Credential that gets us into heaven, and let me just state it simply. The Credential is this:

The Credential: You must be born again to enter God’s Kingdom

Put all the details about Christian living aside. Forget all the debates over pet theological issues.  Forget denominational differences. If you are going to go to heaven, you have to be born again. That’s the one credential you have to have, the only one that matters as far as entrance into God’s Kingdom goes. Jesus makes this very clear in our story. Let’s walk through it, and you’ll see what I mean. John tells us this:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night

– John 3:1-2

So after Jesus had cleansed the Temple, after he had done a few unspecified miracles, after crowds began to follow him, John tells us that he received an after hours visit one night by a guy named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a guy with a lot of credentials, a lot of things that would make him seem like a shoo-in for God’s Kingdom. John tells us four things about Nicodemus, and most of these things go right past our modern ears unnoticed, but they are all impressive.

  1. Nicodemus has the right National credentials. John tells us he was Jewish. He was one of God’s chosen people. Many people thought that by itself was enough to get you into God’s Kingdom. He was a Jew.
  1. Nicodemus had the right social (and political) credentials. John tells us he was a member of the Jewish Ruling Council, also called the Sanhedrin. Now that doesn’t mean anything to most of us, but let me say it was a big deal! This isn’t the PTA we’re talking about here! The Sanhedrin was the highest Judicial and Legislative body in all of Israel. It had 70 members, and they called the shots for the whole country of Israel. They were like Senators and Supreme Court Justices combined. Their power was limited only by Rome, and they were the guys who ultimately crucified Jesus! So Nicodemus would have had incredible social standing in the community.
  1. John tells us Nicodemus had what seemed like the right Religious Affiliation.

He was a Pharisee. Now, we tend to think of the Pharisees as the bad guys. They are enemies of Jesus, right? But at this time, they were really the religious heroes of the nation of Israel. There were only a few thousand of them. You had to take a vow to become a Pharisee. Nobody, I mean nobody, was as religious as a Pharisee. They were fanatical about the Law of Moses. They kept it religiously! They literally picked every tenth leaf off of their herbs and spices as a tithe. Kelley has a basil bush on our back deck. If she was a Pharisee, there would be a Ziploc bag of herbs in the offering plate every Sunday!

That was just the tip of the iceberg with these guys. There were 613 commands and prohibitions in the Old Testament Law of Moses. What these guys did was take every one of the 613 commands and apply them to every possible circumstance of life and made rules from that.

The Old Testament Law just said “Don’t do any work on the Sabbath.” These guys came along and said “Well, what is and isn’t work?” In the Mishnah, their religious code, there are 24 chapters on what is and isn’t work on the Sabbath. For example, is it work to tie a knot? If you tie it with two hands, it’s work. But if you can tie it with one hand, it’s not, unless you’re a lady who is tying her girdle or her shoes, then it’s not work. Is it work to put out a candle? They said if you snuff it out with your fingers, no. But if you blow it out, the wick will harden, creating charcoal and creating is work, so that’s work. And on and on it went. You couldn’t look in a mirror on Sabbath, because you might be tempted to pluck out a gray hair, and that was reaping which was work. By the way, this is what people did with their spare time before X-Box and iPhones!

They were that religious. They took the Old Testament law that seriously, and people respected them for it. So Nicodemus was from the right nationality, the right social strata, the right religious organization and one more thing:

  1. He wasn’t just a Rabbi. Nicodemus was THE Rabbi.

In verse 10 in the New International Version, Jesus says “You are Israel’s teacher and you don’t know this?” The Greek literally says “You are THE Rabbi of Israel.” In other words, he was the guy. He was the most celebrated Rabbi, the most famous teacher of the Law in all of Israel. He was the guy who answered all the questions, the guy who spoke into those 24 chapters on Sabbath Law. He was a famous Rabbi!

Now the point of all this is that Nicodemus had credentials! He was from the right nation, the right social strata, the right religious group, the right profession. He had credentials! In fact, his credentials were so impeccable that he came to Jesus by night! He wasn’t too sure about Jesus. He wasn’t too sure about this young Rabbi who had overturned the tables in the Temple and claimed to do miracles. He wasn’t sure whether Jesus was too radical, so he didn’t want to be seen with him in daylight. So he goes to Jesus by night. Look at what he says:

“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

– John 3:2b

Notice he uses the plural “we.” He’s representing the religious authorities . He starts the conversation by throwing Jesus a bone: “We know you’re from God.” I’m sure Nicodemus eventually wants to get around to asking Jesus how radical he is and maybe even to sparring with him over some trivial issue of the Law, just to see if Jesus can hold his own with a real Rabbi. But he starts with a compliment. I’m sure most people would have considered those words coming from someone with such great credentials to be a real feather in their cap. Most people would really be buttered up! But not Jesus, which is why I love him! He cuts right to the chase:

In reply (to this buttering up) Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

– John 3:3

Jesus says “You want to know how radical I am? You want to know what my deal is? I’m all about getting people into the Kingdom of God. And no one, not even you, can get into that kingdom unless they are born again.” Boom! Drop the mic, Jesus. I mean it!

Do you have any idea how radical that statement was in Jesus’ day?  To stand before a guy with Nicodemus credentials, with his nationality, his social standing, his religious affiliation, his knowledge of the Bible and insist that he’s not going to make it unless he’s born again? Nicodemus has checked all the boxes! How would Jesus dare to say that?

Do you have any idea how radical it is that Jesus would say that to you and me? Because he says “no one.” It’s an absolute statement. He’s not saying that God doesn’t care who you are or what you’ve done. He cares deeply about those things, but he’s saying “No matter who you are  or what you’ve done, you must be born again.”

Think of who Jesus is talking to. I promise you there’s no way you are going to out-do Nicodemus. Your ethnic identity will not give you any more pull than his did. Your social standing the way you are perceived the things you’ve done for the community are not going to outweigh his. If his religious affiliation didn’t do the trick, there’s no way yours will. Going to church won’t do the trick. You know what they say “Being in church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car!” You’re not going to outdo Nicodemus’ devotion to the Bible. You’re not. Jesus is saying that none of that is good enough, for him or for you.

What Does It Mean be Born Again?

We have to talk about this, even though it may make you uncomfortable, even though it may make you nervous about whether you’ve had this experience. We have to talk about it, because remember my story about my friend Hendrick? Remember how excited we were that he was coming to America? He was so likeable. He’d been through so much. We were pulling for him so hard. It was so heartbreaking to see him excluded from the place we wanted him to be. Well, can I tell you something? My worst nightmare as a Pastor would be to walk this walk with some of you, to see you week in and week out, to pray for you to invest in your families, to see you nod your head while I preach, and then to have you excluded from the Kingdom, because you lack the one credential that matters. Jesus says “You must be born again.” No one enters the Kingdom without it.

So what does that mean? What is it like? How does it happen? How would you know if it happened to you? Well, let me just say that in verses 4-15, the middle part of our passage, Jesus and Nicodemus get into an extended discussion about that. Unfortunately because it’s two Rabbis talking and because there are all kinds of word plays, it’s really hard to understand,   and it’s even harder to follow the flow of thought. There’s a lot going on here! To begin with, these are two very learned guys. It’s like me trying to understand a conversation between Elon Musk and Bob Conner! There’s all these word-plays! The word “again” – “You must be born again” in the Greek means “again” but it also means “from above.” So Jesus is talking about being born again, like born from above, but Nicodemus thinks he’s talking about being born the same way twice.

My point with all this is just this: Rather than go through the rest of the passage phrase by phrase, I think the most helpful thing we can do is just ask the question: What does it mean to be born again? How does Jesus describe it? So that’s what we’re going to do, and Jesus doesn’t tell us everything, but he does tell us three things:

  1. Being born again means starting all over

You cannot get to the kingdom by polishing up what you already have. You’ve got to start all over. The image of being born again means starting from square 1 as an infant. Think about what it means to be an infant. Infants are powerless. They are naïve and, I hate to say this, but they really don’t bring much to the table. We don’t expect much from infants. John, what does Sadie have to do to impress people? Make eye contact, crawl, smash up a birthday cake, fill a diaper. The bar is pretty low here, isn’t it? An infant doesn’t bring a lot to the table.

I think this is actually one of the main points Jesus is making here. It’s easy to miss it, because it’s so obvious when Jesus says “You must be born again” in John. In some ways, it’s the same as in Matthew’s gospel when he says “Unless you become as a little child, you will in no wise enter the Kingdom of heaven”

You have to start from square one. The book of Isaiah says “All our little righteousnesses are as like filthy rags.”  Again, think of who Jesus is talking to. This is Mr. Chosen people, Mr. Social Standing, Mr. Religious Organization , Mr. Bible. Jesus is saying when it comes to entering the Kingdom of Heaven you can leave all that at the door.  You bring nothing to the Table. It’s God’s mercy that we really need, not the recognition of our accomplishments.

So let me ask you: Have you ever had a moment where you realized that you bring nothing to the table with God, where you realize that your impressive credentials, your social standing,  your religious affiliation, your good works aren’t nearly enough? Let me tell you it will simultaneously be the most terrifying and the most life-giving moment you will ever experience. You can’t be born again without it. So it means starting all over.

  1. Being born again means being made spiritually alive

Nicodemus asks Jesus what he means:

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

– John 3:4

Now look at Jesus’ response:

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

– John 3:5-6

Like I said earlier, this is a word-play. Nicodemus has misunderstood Jesus to say that we are born the same way twice so Jesus makes it clear that he is not talking about someone entering the birth canal again. Rather, he’s talking about someone coming to life in two completely different ways. One that is physical and one that is spiritual. I once saw a bumper sticker that said “Born once die twice; born twice die once.” That’s kind of what Jesus is saying here. You have to be born of flesh and spirit.

There are a lot of theological nuances that we could debate in those verses, but the most basic thing Jesus is saying is that being born again means becoming spiritually alive. If you remember  when we studied Ephesians, Paul said “We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but because of his great love, God made us alive through Christ.” So, again, let me ask you a question: Are you spiritually alive? Do you have a living relationship with God? Do you talk to him? Does God’s Word connect with you? Does his Spirit encourage you convict you of sin stir you to action? Someone said acting like a Christian, saying your prayers, going to church, doing good works when you’re not spiritually alive is like being on a dance floor and doing what everyone else is doing without being able to hear the music. It may look OK, but it doesn’t really make sense! Are you alive? How would a person know? Can you do something mechanically to make the new birth happen? Look at what Jesus says to Nicodemus:

You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

– John 3:7-8

What is Jesus saying about the wind and the new birth here? Well, we had a pretty good example of it with Michael this week. Did anybody see the effects of the wind Thursday? I guarantee Kelley and I did. Trash blown onto the street leaves and limbs all over our yard and five hours in the dark! Could we see the wind? No. Could we control the wind? No. Do we fully understand it? No. Do we know the wind exists? Absolutely, because we could see its effects!

Jesus is saying that’s what it’s like to be born of the Spirit. We don’t fully understand it. We can’t fully control it. Some of you are going “I don’t know. I never had a spectacular, night and day spiritual experience .” That’s OK. Sometimes wind starts out very gently. It’s OK not to understand it. But can you see its effects? Are you spiritually alive?

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to someone who is very, very new in her faith. As we were talking, she said something I loved. She said “You know how you get that feeling sometimes, like you just want to read your Bible? Well, I read it the other day and then you preached on the very same passage I read!” I love it! It’s a simple thing to say, but when she’s saying “I got that feeling, like I just want to read my Bible” that’s the wind of the Spirit. She’s alive! You can see the effects. Are you alive?

So being born again means (1) starting all over, and (2) made spiritually alive. Now Jesus shows us one more thing about what it means to be born again here :

  1. Being Born again means believing in Jesus

Jesus closes his encounter with Nicodemus. The rest of the passage, verses 16-21, are the words of John, the gospel writer not Jesus. The story ends at verse 15. Look how Jesus closes his encounter with Nicodemus:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

– John 3:14-15

Now Jesus is referring there to a story from the Old Testament book of Numbers where Israel disobeyed God repeatedly and, as a result of their disobedience, God sent venomous snakes into the camp. Many Israelites were dying from snakebite. Then Israel repented. They came to God through Moses and acknowledged their sin and asked God to heal them. I response, God told Moses to do something unusual. He told him to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole and lift it up in the middle of the camp. If anyone was bitten by one of those venomous snakes,  they weren’t to do what you would normally do for snakebite. They weren’t to spend their time taking medicine. They weren’t to lie down and rest They were to act in faith and go to where they could see that bronze serpent and look on it. If they did that, if they exercised faith in God’s cure, the book of Numbers says they lived and the plague was stopped.

In referring to this story, Jesus is saying to Nicodemus “I’m going to be lifted up just like that snake, I’m going to be lifted up from the earth.” He’s talking about his crucifixion, where he will be raised from the earth for all to see. Jesus is saying that, just like that bronze snake, anyone who looks to him in faith will receive the cure for their sin and will be made alive.

To be born again is to place your faith your trust, your hope for healing, in Jesus. It means believing that he is the way the only way for you to be a part of God’s Kingdom. It means to abandon any hope that would place in your credentials in your ethnic heritage, in your social standing, in your religious affiliation, in your Bible knowledge. It means abandoning that and coming to him as a child asking him to give you life and start all over.

You don’t have to know everything about Jesus. You don’t have to have your theology all perfect. Just like Israel didn’t have to understand the details of how that bronze serpent was made or even why it worked they just had to put their trust in it, look on it and live. That’s what Jesus asks us to do: to place our trust in him, look on him, and live.

So the credential is being born again, starting over, being made alive, believing in Jesus. Now there’s one more thing we need to see from this passage, and that’s the cause. Why is it that being born again is the necessary credential for entering God’s kingdom?

The Cause: We Are All Broken.

The actual story of Jesus and Nicodemus ends in verse 15, but John isn’t done with the story yet. He closes with a beautiful and revealing statement about why Jesus has just said what he said to Nicodemus. Why do we have to be born again? Why did God invent this whole system, this whole arrangement where our own accomplishments our own credentials don’t matter? Why on earth would he do that? Why does Jesus have to be lifted up on a cross? Listen to verses 16-21, some of Scripture’s most beautiful words about why God did what he did in the gospel. We’re going to have the New International Version up on the screen, but I’m going to read a paraphrase. You might want to compare the two or you might want to just close your eyes and listen. This is why we have to be born again. This is how John closes this passage:

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son his one and only Son.

– John 3:16-21

This is why, so that no one need be destroyed. By believing in him, anyone can have whole and everlasting life. For God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted. Anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under a death sentence, whether they know it or not. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God.“This is the judgment mankind is under: God’s Light streamed into the world. But men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God’s Light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God’s Light so the work in their lives can be seen for what it is: God’s work.

That’s how John closes the passage. From those verses, we can see two things. First, we can see that we need to be born again, because we’re broken. John says “This is the condemnation. This is the judgment. This is the verdict.” The word he uses means all of that. This is the charge against us that we cannot wiggle out of. The charge is this: Light came into the world and people chose darkness over light. Every time God sent his light into the world, no matter what that light was, whether it was the light of telling us not to eat of the tree in the garden, or the light of the Law of Moses in the Old Testament, or the light of the prophets, or the light of his one and only Son Jesus, every time Light has come into the world, we have chosen to disobey it.

We find ways to disregard it, ways to hide from it. We turn God’s command to reverence him on the Sabbath into a question about one-handed or two-handed knots. We disregard his warnings, his instructions. When God says “You must be born again”, we say (like Nicodemus  said) “I don’t understand. That doesn’t make any sense. How can a man be born when he is old?”

We live in a constant cycle of disobedience and hiding. We hide because we were disobedient. Then we are more disobedient, because we’ve been hiding.” We love darkness rather than light each and every one of us. And if you don’t believe it ask yourself why the most religious man in Israel  the Council Member the ideal Rabbi the man with better credentials than any of us will ever have is coming to Jesus at night. We love darkness and we have to be born again because we need more than a band-aid we need a new beginning. That’s the first thing this passage tells us.

The second thing is this: The gospel doesn’t start with our darkness. We do love darkness, but that’s not the most important thing about us. The gospel doesn’t start with our darkness. Did you notice that? John’s explanation of what this conversation with Nicodemus is all about, his explanation of why we have to be born again, didn’t start with Darkness or judgment or wrath. It started with God’s love: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The Gospel starts with God’s love. God loved us. He loved you so much that he gave his one and only Son so that you could be Born again. That’s the one credential we need to get into heaven. Let’s bow our heads for Prayer.