Imagine that you are a Jewish government official. You have memorized the Old Testament, have kept the law meticulously, and are highly respected in the community. However, despite your best efforts, you still feel something is desperately missing. A man begins to emerge in the community who speaks with authority, forgives sins, heals the sick, raises the dead, and touches the leper. You begin to think that surely He must have the answer.
As a prominent member of society in Jesus’ time, this is likely how Nicodemus felt. Intrigued by Jesus, yet fearful of ruining his reputation, he approached Him under cover of darkness. He could see that Jesus was encountering the Kingdom of God in a way he was not. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2).
The false belief that our works will earn us eternity is not new. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that, in order to enter the Kingdom of God, one had to be reborn. “How can someone be born when they are old?” (John 3:4). Jesus went on to say that, to be reborn, one must believe in Him.
The type of belief Jesus is referring to is a trust that understands your life depends on it. Humanity has an inescapable DNA of sin that cannot be corrected by moral human behavior, no matter how well-intentioned. To Nicodemus, Jesus’ message became clear: God has to do something in you. It is not what you do for God--it is what He does in you. Dead ritual cannot save you--only God can bring you to life.
The Truth of Jesus impacted Nicodemus deeply. Initially he was ashamed to talk to Jesus, but in the end, he publicly showed his love for Christ. Upon Jesus’ death, he brought 75 pounds of spices for His burial, a gesture of immense honor (see John 19:39). Being face to face with Jesus changed him.
God longs to produce spiritual rebirth in us; He knows it is the only way we can truly live. For those trying to work their way into the Kingdom, Jesus says, “Stop trying. Let Me save you. Let Me change you and fill you up.” For those who believe their own morality is enough, Jesus says, “Your efforts will never be enough, but I am enough. I know you are thirsty; come to Me.” Only when we look to Jesus are we transformed.
Prayer: Father, thank You for bringing me new life. I put my faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross to save me, and I choose to turn from my sin. Fill me with Your Spirit. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Check out more from Dr. Youssef here!