Friday, October 09, 2009

Jesus and Nicodemus Part 5 (Jn. 3:9-15)

John 3:9-15

Nicodemus could not understand Jesus’ words because it was not consistent with what he knew. He represented the Jews who had studied the Scriptures for 1500 years. Although his culture was so advanced, he knew he did not have what Jesus had. They had not seen miracles for four centuries and unlike them, Jesus spoke with authority. He observed that Jesus had done greater signs and wonders than what they had ever seen.

Despite the arrogance of Jewish culture, there was one man who was humble enough to go to Christ. While the Jews had failed miserably in politics and culture, they were still above all as far as God’s revelation is concerned. That became their source of arrogance. They did not realise that God hated self-righteousness. When the culture is in the height of its arrogance it might be the time God abandoned them. After the book of Malachi, no more revelation was written Hebrew. There was a move from the Hebrew to Greek culture. Jews would not accept it until today.

Nicodemus came to Jesus sincerely. Jesus accepted him and shared the truth with him. But His answer is not what Nicodemus expected. There was no common ground. The more he conversed with Jesus, the more confused he became. He was stuck with the physical matters: How could someone be born again? How can one go back to his mother’s womb? Yet Jesus was talking about spiritual life, about the work of the Holy Spirit and the sovereign will of God. But Nicodemus could not understand. This is the failure of the intellectual.

In the book of John, Jesus said “I tell you the truth” 25 times but 3 times were addressed to Nicodemus. Jesus only spoke to one person such an important sermon. Why is he worthy to listen to such a big portion of the truth? This is the sovereign will of God.

Jesus said, “You are Israel’s teacher, and do you not understand this?” (v.10) It was a rebuke that Nicodemus was not qualified to be a teacher of Israel.

But why is it that Nicodemus did not understand about being born again? Is it because the Old Testament did not teach or because he was blind? Has God revealed it and due to his selective hearing he could not understand? Why is it that some people repent with just one sermon while others’ hearts become more hardened? The Apostle Paul said that many people learn but never understand. Many do not come to church seek the truth, but to be worshipped. Some go to church because it is close to their house, or because business opportunities, or because there are beautiful girls. What about you?

Did the Old Testament speak of new life before? Indeed. God said that He would remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. This is not an academic or reasoning process. All those are of secondary importance. Having a new life, a new heart, is of utmost importance. Our selective perception is very frightening. We seek after unimportant things and neglect important things.

Not only did the Pharisees ignore the word of God, they despised the Word that came in the flesh. This is the greatest irony in human culture. The more they abandon God the more they think they are following God.

Nicodemus should be thankful and humbly reminded that he could still be changed at his old age. If a person is willing to listen to rebuke and thank God for it, he is blessed. John 3 did not tell us when Nicodemus went home. He was a person who was highly intellectual, well-respected and it was very hard for him to change. He was very used to reasoning. Maybe he needed a few years before it became clear to him. So when we preach to such people we cannot rush.

In John 4, the Samaritan woman repented immediately. Not only that, the whole village also believed after hearing the woman’s testimony. On the other hand, it would take a long struggle for Nicodemus to believe. But once he overcome, it would be a great victory.

After Jesus said this to Nicodemus, He suddenly said something different. Jesus said that other than the Son of Man, nobody has gone into heaven. Would this not stumble Nicodemus who knew the Old Testament so well? The Old Testament recorded that Elijah and Enos went to heaven. Why did Jesus say this to the expert of the Law? Many people who were not patient enough to ponder easily misunderstood Jesus and left him to their own destruction. In the matter of believing the Lord, we should not follow our own will and narrow-mindedness. The word of God is not easy to understand. We need a lot of patience and humility to learn wisdom.

Enoch and Elijah went to heaven. What heaven did they go to? Jesus came from heaven, what sort of heaven was He from? The Bible implicitly told us that there are many levels in heavens. The Jews ignored that and many Christians ignore that too.

The Son of God went to the world of man, hence became the Son of Man. The Son of Man came from above, but Enoch and Elijah went from below to heaven. The One who came from above is the only Way to salvation. The religious pursuit of man is in complete opposite direction from God’s way of salvation. Jesus showed Nicodemus that nobody has gone into heaven, that nobody can reach heaven by trying hard. But the love of God created the situation where He Himself came down and reached men. Nicodemus must have been very confused that night to have all his past understanding shatttered.

This is the most revolutionary preaching of the Bible. In the Old Testament we know that God is in heaven. No prophet in the Old Testament claimed that he would go to heaven. Even David said he would go to Hades. He would not say he would be raised to heaven to be with God. The only time it appeared was in the book of Daniel, but he also did not understand. God commanded him to just write it down. On the Last Day, he would be raised. In the books of David, David was talking about Christ, “my Lord lives forever, sit on the right hand of God”. He is the resurrected God.

Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, after I die, after my physical body decay, with my eyes and my body I will see God.” This God not only resurrected Himself but also resurrected us. Job did not mention about the Law of Moses, Israel or even Abraham. It was possible that this was the first book of the Bible written. Job knew the concept of resurrection. In the writings of Isaiah and Daniel it was there too, but the concept of heaven was vague.

But both Old and New Testament did reveal that there are 3 levels of heaven. In the New Testament, Paul said he heard mystery in the third heaven.

Heaven where God the Creator is, is the highest Heaven. It is not the same heaven as where Enoch and Elijah went to. Why then did Paul say he went to the third heaven? What about Satan? Did not he go to heaven too since he appeared before the presence of God in the book of Job? Not necessarily. God is omnipresent, so coming before the presence of God does not mean one is in heaven. It simply mean we cannot escape His eyes.

Where did Enoch and Elijah go to? It was not the universe nor the milky way. It was a spiritual heaven. But it was still not where God is. They were at the highest place where creatures can go. But God is in His throne at the highest. That place has no Elijah and Enoch.

What Jesus was saying to Nicodemus is that He came from the highest heaven where God is. He is both man and God. Humanly speaking, He is God in the flesh. Divinely speaking, He is omnipresent.

What about the Old Testament? Where is it recorded about 3 levels of heaven? After the temple was built, it was recorded once in the prayer of Solomon: “Jehovah, heaven and heaven above heaven cound not contain you.” This implied only 2 layers. Then he said, “How can I build a small temple for you? Heaven, and heaven above heaven cannot contain you, because You live in the highest.” So there are 3 levels. That’s where God is. That is where the Son of Man came from.


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