Today we conclude Nicodemus’ night time discussion with Jesus. Jesus has been discussing the Spirit and now he turns to the subject of belief, namely belief in Jesus as, not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God. Jesus refers to an Old Testament event where the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and were bitten by poisonous snakes. To save the people’s lives, Moses lifted up a bronze serpent. If they looked at the serpent they lived. Jesus uses this as an illustration of how he will be lifted up (on a cross) not just for life here, but also for eternal life through him.
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15
Nicodemus probably doesn’t equate the idea of being “lifted up” with crucifixion at this point, but Jesus goes on to say one of the most memorable verses in the Bible. Connect verse 15 to verse 16 and you will understand the word, “For”.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
My pastor summarizes that powerful verse like this, “God loved. God gave. If we believe, we receive.” It is a picture of God’s mercy to us—we who are undeserving. By contrast, the next verse demonstrates God’s justice.
18 Whoever belives 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. John 3:18
It is not complicated. Believe, receive eternal life. Don’t believe, receive condemnation (eternal death.) Nicodemus must still have a blank look or a frown on his face because Jesus once again illustrates with one of his favorites—light and darkness. Why does a child go off in the darkness to do his bad deeds? Because he doesn’t want anyone to see what he’s doing, of course. Jesus compares himself to the light and evil to the dark.
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. John 3:19-20
Jesus is the essence of light—truth, God’s righteousness, wholeness, deep abiding joy. If we follow that light and walk in that light, our good deeds will not be of ourselves. Instead, it will be His light shining through us. It is as if Jesus is telling Nicodemus, “You have come to seek the truth about me. Trust me, Nicodemus. Believe in me, Nicodemus.”
21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. John 3:21
This is a key, culminating, convicting thought for Nicodemus. Much of what he does is driven by the desire to be seen upright in the eyes of men. It is a defect that Jesus often criticized in the Pharisees. Jesus knows that Nicodemus needs a change inside of him. Only the Spirit can make that change, but Jesus must also see that Nicodemus desires to know the truth. Look how many times he mentions it.
3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth… “
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth… “
11 “I tell you the truth… “
21 “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light…”
Jesus must have seen a man who was struggling deep in his soul and a man who wanted to know the truth. Thus the title of my book—A Heart for Truth. At this point, we have no indication that Nicodemus has made any commitment yet, but his mind has been stretched. Jesus has planted seeds of truth in his heart. Next week, we move to another incident with Nicodemus.