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This week we read the night time exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus, a member of council.
I am struck by 2:24-25. How extraordinary and necessary Jesus’ physical Presence was, yet He couldn’t trust Himself with us because He knew what was in us. Even though He has union with the Trinity, He must have experienced considerable loneliness in the world through His humanity. He is One Who understands the lonely and the misfit.
3:5-8 gives a beautiful reminder of our multi-faceted and complex nature. God gives us physical bodies and life in this world, but also the eternal spirit and soul. His Spirit gives us new life, but He lovingly requires an invitation. I have a family member who believes that God lives in everyone. The first thing that occurs to me is: If God lives in everyone, then wouldn’t that make Him an invader?
Just a note to those who don’t know me, I’m Tim or @Tim_Ramey. I’m involved in a thread on prayer called, “What Exactly is Prayer?” as I seek to discover all that the Lord has for us in prayer. I also am a participant in a thread on prayer that is in parallel with a memorization thread. In that thread we are memorizing, in this case, the book of 1 John two verses per week.
In a large part, I was interested in the study of John because of the memorization of 1 John and I recently memorized John 15.
Three things grab me about this week’s study.
Jesus did not trust Himself to man for they believed only in His name. I find that I am still guilty of that. I believe in the biography of Jesus, but I don’t trust Him. That is not said in a spirit of false humility. I see, ashamedly, how I still do that and I am humbled that He trusts me when He didn’t to those who only believed Him when they saw His miracles. I think it is 1 Peter 1 that says “… without having seen Him, we love Him.” Faith translates to love.
The water and the Spirit. Does anyone wish to expound on that as I didn’t quite get the study guide’s point in depth?
I always appreciate this analogy of the Spirit and the wind which, in the Greek, are the same word. How and where does the wind start and where does it stop? Wind is so mysterious, It is invisible, it is powerful, it refreshes, it can ruin, it is strong, weak, ending, unending and on and on. The Spirit is such. He is so huge and mysterious! What a mighty God we serve!
I have so much more to ask/say but I can be long winded (speaking of the wind!)
Amen @Tim_Ramey ! Thank you for offering such thoughtful and spirit led observations! And I’m so glad you’re here!
As Jesus often moves in the expository and with object lessons when he explains, I wonder if His comments about the wind and the Spirit were amplified for Nicodemus because they are sitting there (at night) listening to the wind outside!
I agree the material did fall short of explaining 3:5 about the water and the Spirit. I have some beautiful notes on this passage from BSF International. (I’m paraphrasing here…) They explain that the most likely intent is the washing/cleansing by the Word of God, which is Jesus, and also the Word which had been imparted by God through Moses and the prophets. So Nicodemus, being a highly educated man of the Jewish council, should have recognized the cleansing power of the Word and receiving the Spirit to make him a new person.
This is further emphasized when Jesus tells His disciples in John 15:3:
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
And Paul makes the connection in Ephesians 5:25-26 in reference to the church:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
It’s amazing to think of our gracious God who does the house cleaning before He moves in, transforms us, and spends time with us to make us more and more in His likeness!
Just last week, for the first time I heard Michael Ramsden’s testimony, and I was thinking of posting the podcast here because I thought it fit in with this discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus.
(Michael is probably my favorite speaker with RZIM because he has such a gift for communicating poignant truth with amazing wit. When I want to hear a great talk and a great laugh, I go find Michael.)
But I wasn’t sure if posting a podcast in the middle of this would just confuse things…
Oh April, your involvement with BSF will be most valuable. Please always pull out treasure from it.
April, I would love to hear Michael’s podcast. If you don’t think it is the place to post it here, could you message me and I get it from you there?
Getting back to the study, the commentary on the lesson was helpful because I always thought that NIcodemus was really an innocent questioner. I still feel that his questions were honest and not the trick questions of his cohorts. Could it be that Nicodemus was actually a seeker and really didn’t put two and two together?
I read an in-depth book on the Life of Christ years ago by a man named Farrar and he says that legend has it that Nicodemus, as can be seen at Jesus’ death, became a follower of Jesus and died in abject poverty. I always have had a soft spot in my heart for Nicodemus,
I agree with you. I think Nicodemus was honestly seeking, but because he came at night, he was trying to avoid being seen with Jesus. And Jesus was honoring his curiosity. But at the same time Nic (can we call him Nic? My study crew used to call Melchizedek, Mel) wasn’t using his available resources in the scriptures, so Jesus was pointing out that he should have recognized these things in his User Manual.
Can’t we all relate to wanting facts and confirmation before we step out of our comfort zone and into the lion’s den?
It would have taken great courage to oppose the council. We see the fierce opposition of the Jewish leadership and its persecution in the life of Paul all throughout Acts. I just finished that study with my 6th graders, and had forgotten how many times they plotted to kill Paul.
Like you, I take heart in the fact that Nic must have become a believer as he assisted Joseph of Arimathea (Joe of A) prepare Jesus’ body for burial according to the John.
And that definitely would be risky and wouldn’t have gone unnoticed.
I had not heard of his end of life experience. That’s interesting. Thank you for sharing.
First of all, thanks for the link to the podcast April. I look forward to listening to it!
The lesson this week is so full of good stuff that goes beyond the usual lingo that we speak about it.
Nic is like me. He is a seeker and he has questions that he should know the answers to but humbles himself to seek the Truth. That is what we are doing here. We are not out to impress each other by our knowledge but at times, could surprise another by the fact that we don’t know something. He came at night to see Jesus but I don’t think that we can appreciate the gravity of the situation as to being a seeker of Jesus. The synagogue was your life and if you were cast out - there went your whole life.
The bottom line is Nic asked some good questions and had he not, John would not have the great things discussed in this lesson. Jesus so honors hearts that truly seek Him.
Another point that we touched on but I’d like to bring up again is the beginning of the lesson or the end of chapter 2. Jesus did not entrust Himself to man because He knew what was in them. Does He do the same to us ever now? Or is it a matter of having the Holy Spirit within us now and so He trusts us? Sometimes I don’t know how He can trust me when I still don’t even trust myself!
He came at night to see Jesus but I don’t think that we can appreciate the gravity of the situation as to being a seeker of Jesus. The synagogue was your life and if you were cast out - there went your whole life.
For sure! I was merely stating that the Word says he visited at night, and that would indicate he is battling his fears while seeking truth. That’s real human interaction there. I’m not judging Nicodemus. I’m merely observing the expository nature of the detail. It is another great, documented event in the Bible demonstrating real people in their real struggles, and how God meets us there.
Another point that we touched on but I’d like to bring up again is the beginning of the lesson or the end of chapter 2. Jesus did not entrust Himself to man because He knew what was in them. Does He do the same to us ever now? Or is it a matter of having the Holy Spirit within us now and so He trusts us?
I think Jesus, in His physical presence, experienced things we cannot wrap our minds around. My Amplified Bible puts John 2:23-25 this way:
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in His name [identifying themselves with Him] after seeing His signs (attesting miracles) which He was doing. But Jesus, for His part, did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people [and understood the superficiality and fickleness of human nature], and He did not need anyone to testify concerning man [and human nature], for He Himself knew what was in man [in their hearts—in the very core of their being].
As God incarnate, He would be offering Himself in the physical presence as well as in His divine nature. He knows who truly believes Him in His true identity, and who regards Him as the current rock star, or a quick fix, or a trouble maker, etc., and His response on earth and in Spirit is according to that knowledge. He entrusts us with the Holy Spirit when our belief comes from the cleansing of His Word, and grants us fellowship.
My original point was that as He is the physical manifestation of love itself, He experienced a great deal of grief over us in body (interpersonal earthly relationships) and Spirit because of our nature in a multitude of ways.
April, I need to take a course in inter personal communications. I was not judging you by implying that you judged Nic (keep your nickname going!). I read your response and so hoped that is not what you think I was saying. Not that we cannot ever disagree but I was making a point and did not have your response in mind. I’m sorry if that is what you thought April!! I really only intended to say that to be thrown out of the synagogue hardly has an equal on our understanding.
Here is your second point and it’s question:
I’d say “Absolutely!” He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. In fact, your reply prompted me to read Isaiah 53 as I thought of that in your reply.
April, when I make points, if they are in retaliation of something you said, I will directly pose the disagreement but never imply it. I was so sorry if you ever got any hint that my reply was a push back as to something that you said.
Maybe it is a place to state that there is growth with disagreement as I think it challenges our thinking. But dear April, I sincerely wasn’t taking any potshots at you! Sorry if that was your impression.
No worries, Tim! Thank you for your very kind reply. I did want to make my point with more clarity in case I had come across some way that was offensive. I tell myself and my kids, the responsibility falls on the one communicating not on the one receiving. Connect is where we practice, right?
Had a crazy weekend feeding 150 people, so I look forward to getting back to a “regularly scheduled programming”…and I look forward to your contributions this week!
John the author seems to relate a story about Jesus, then give comments on it. The end of chapter 2 would presumably fall into this category. People back then were like people today - they are immediately dazzled by the sensational, the exceptional, the glamourous. Jesus had a mother that seems to have been very sensitive to people around her - she noticed things, and kept many things close to her heart, but I think she also shared them with her son Jesus - who was similarly observant (think of the encounter at the wedding). She and Joseph had gone through a LOT with Jesus - his birth, the fleeing to Egypt and years of exile there, then coming back to Galilee and facing constant innuendos about their early relationship, etc. I suspect that both parents had a lot to teach Jesus about other people, things that he would have either confirmed as true, or things in which he saw their bias. By the time he began his ministry he had lived 30 years, at least half of them working for his living . dealing with suppliers and customers, etc etc.
The wedding showed he could do miracles - but he didn’t want to be known as an instant wine maker; he was zealous for the purity and holiness of the Temple, and did something about the corruption of it’s purpose by it’s transformation to a market place and financial exchange brokerage. He spoke with authority, and caused a sensation. But like people today, they were caught most by the sensationalism, not the substance of his teaching and behaviour. They wanted a wonder-worker, especially one who would do what they wanted. And they were used to populists even then. Jesus didn’t do things to become popular, and he must have seen many examples of what happened to popular figures when they lost their populatity.
He didn’t entrust himself to them, IMHO, not because of his divinity, but because the Scriptures had told him not to put his trust in men, but in God. And he had seen evidence in the society around him, that these Scriptures were well founded. (Job 15:31; Psalm 146; Jer. 9:4, 17:5; Micah 7:5).
On birth “of water and the spirit:” interesting (for me) that you interpret both of these as being spiritual events. Maybe that was Jesus intent, I don’t know, but the story seems to imply that Nicodemus connected it to natural (physical) and spiritual birth, since he had asked if a man can “enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born.” Since no one can come to the Lord unless the Father draws him, cleansing by the Word, and being born of “the spirit” must both be accomplished by the Spirit… so can you clarify the difference more precisely, please?
So a question comes up: does the use of the image of birth cease to refer to a one-time event, and now mean a life-long process? Cleansing by the Word (if we are refering to the scriptures here) is surely a long term and on-going process? When Jesus washed his disciples feet, he seemed to refer to two different categories of washing with water - you are already clean, but I need to wash your feet (John 15) - Is being born of the Spirit then also an on-going process, or a one time event that is followed by “filling?” Which is Jesus refering to in his talk with Nic - the initial birth, or the constant cleansing and filling?
Am I the only one who finds I need regular cleansing?
Yes. Being highly educated often means you think you know it all, and have nothing to learn, nothing to un-learn, nothing to review for alternative meaning and understanding. I find a great difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. One of my greatest challenges is moving my head knowledge down to my heart.