Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jesus and Nicodemus Part 3 (Jn. 3:1-12)

John 3:1-12

Nicodemus believed that God must be with Jesus for Him to be able to perform those miracles. He was honest and was willing to learn from a younger person.

The long-lasting power of religion is based on arrogance. All religions will last until the end of the world because they want to emphasise they are right to the end. A religious person has a very dogmatic approach towards his belief. When new thoughts arise and surpass and challenge the old thoughts, they will resist. In this kind of situation, Jesus appeared to expose the decadent religion.

Jesus said new wine could not be poured on old wineskin. An ignorant child is easier to teach than to teach an old person who first needs to unlearn many things. Nicodemus kept asking back, wondering what Jesus meant. Jesus said, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe, how then will you believe if I speak to you of heavenly things?” (v. 12)

Here Jesus draws the qualitative difference between heavenly and earthly things. God is God and man is man. Heaven is heaven and earth is earth. Spirit is spirit and flesh is flesh. No matter how learned you are, unless you are born again you can never see spiritual principles. Jesus totally would not compromise before this religious expert. He was not influenced by Nicodemus’ praise.

When Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is near”, it has a different meaning from the concept of the Jews. When Pilate asked if Jesus was the King of the Jews, Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world, otherwise His subjects would not have allowed Him to be handed over. He was referring to a different kingdom. His kingdom surpassed the Roman empire. He said His kingdom was not of this world and did not elaborate further. Jesus never denied correct acknowledgement about His identity. He accepted that He was King and that He was the Son of God. But His response would not be determined by others’ influence.

Nicodemus could not see because he was not born again. But how to be born again? Nicodemus was bondaged by human knowledge. But what Jesus said is based on the revelation from heaven. There is no common ground, no common foundation and understanding. Jesus said, “You are Israel’s teacher, and you do not understand this?”

Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land. He represented the first generation, the ‘flesh’ generation. It requires a new generation to enter the Promised Land.

Cultural accomplishment can be a source of pride and bondage. There is symbolic relationship between water and spirit. Spirit represents holiness and water represents cleansing. But is this cleansing active or passive? Jesus said you must be born again. A lot of theological teaching use men’s activeness as the basis for God’s acts. For example, if you choose to believe, God will save you, otherwise, God will not. It is as if human choice would determine what God would do.

But the truth is the other way round. We believe because God first worked in our hearts. It is God’s initiative that determine our activeness to believe in Him. Paul did not want to believe and did not plan to meet Jesus on his way to Damascus. But he was predestined to believe, hence he believed in the end.

Our free will is bondaged by sin so we cannot believe in God. God first actively called us, and then we enabled to actively use our will to respond to Him. In this sense, in our ‘activeness’ we are actually passive. The Holy Spirit does not destroy our free will, but changes our heart so that our will is turned towards Him. We were initially dead and He awakened us.

Hence Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of the Spirit” is something only God can do. It is the will and the act of God that cause a sinner to be born again.

(To be continued…)


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