The Simple Gospel
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Taken by surprise the Jewish authorities settled, this time, for challenging His right to do what He had done and asked for a sign to back up that right. His answer was misunderstood by many of those who heard it, but there was one leader of the Jews who was intrigued by what he heard.
John 3:1-21 tells us about the encounter Jesus had with Nicodemus. The Scriptures describe him as a Pharisee and a “ruler of the Jews.” This latter phrase tells us that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews. This group was equivalent to the supreme court. In their hands rested the responsibility for the civil and criminal affairs of the people of Israel. Nicodemus was no “small fish.”
He came to Jesus at night—probably because he didn’t want the high priest or any of the others on the council to know what he was doing. After the encounter in the temple, while Jesus was still in Jerusalem, He did some miracles and people began to follow Him (2:23). Nicodemus was impressed. “Rabbi, we know that 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 3:2).
After Jesus had cleaned out the temple, after His encounter with the Jewish authorities, and after people began to follow Him, John writes that, “…Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men” (2:24). Though Nicodemus’s statement seemed to beg a different kind of response, Jesus, knowing what was really in this man’s heart, got straight to the point: “…unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3).
This began a discussion about the nature of salvation—something Nicodemus did not understand. “‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things?’” (3:10). Apparently Nicodemus was a well-known master-teacher, a religious authority. His lack of understanding highlighted the spiritual decay of the time, the sad state of spiritual affairs where those who thought they knew it all actually knew nothing.
So the Lord took Nicodemus back to the Old Testament (Numbers 21:5-9) and then returned him to the present day: “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 have his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 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” (3:14-18).
We are not told how Nicodemus responded to this discussion with Jesus. He disappears from the scene only to reappear at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry—as a believer. It appears that the Lord’s message did find fertile soil in which to plant itself. The Gospel doesn’t get any clearer than it is here in this well-known passage of Scripture.
The Messiah has come to save His people. Believe.
Though two thousand years have passed that message still remains the same today. The Saviour has come. Forgiveness is possible. Believe and be saved.