Part 1 — Nicodemus
The Nicodemus story is an interesting story because he is one of the spiritual leaders of Israel and yet does not understand the Spiritual which is reflected in His earthly actions. If we understand our priority in the Spiritual, then we understand what must be reflected here in the physical.
John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these [a]signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Here’s the first disconnect we see.
All of the Pharisees, the spiritual leaders of Israel, know that Jesus is from God because of the signs and wonders that He has done, yet Nicodemus comes to him in secret in the night.
This is the beginning of the spiritual parallel that Jesus begins to draw in the rest of this story. If a man’s mind is closed off to spiritual things, then his earth actions will reflect His closed off spiritual state.
This is the analogy by which many Christians today see the world. We would rather believe in what we think we know, or what society, feminism, and our families tell us than test it against God and His Truth.
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born [b]again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”
Nicodemus shows clearly that he does not understand the concept of spiritual rebirth when Jesus discusses it with Him. Note in the first two verses Nicodemus directly asks Jesus about himself, yet Jesus again redirects the conversation away from himself and to God instead. Even though Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He constantly redirects the focus away from Himself and to the One that He submits to — the Father.
Likewise, Christian men are made in God’s image that we should not reflect our own selfish nature but instead be a reflection of the Creator. And we understand that we can only do this by the working of the Holy Spirit in us that allows us to agapao love and do good.
We, like Nicodemus, believe the lies that we are told and our actions reflect the “nice guys” that many Christian men have become. We have become scared of standing out for God’s truth and for speaking of it confidently. If we claim to be saved and born again then why aren’t we confident in the truth that we know? Why are we afraid and timid of what others think about us? Why are we not strong and courageous?
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit (pneuma) he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit (pneuma) is spirit (pneuma). 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born [c]again.’ 8 The wind (pneuma) blows where it wishes (thelō) and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit (pneuma).”
G4151 — πνεῦμα — pneuma — pnyoo’-mah
From G4154; a current of air, that is, breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively a spirit, that is, (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, daemon, or (divine) God, Christ’s spirit, the Holy spirit: – ghost, life, spirit (-ual, -ually), mind. Compare G5590.
I love the double meaning in Scripture because it shows the nature of the revelation of Jesus’ words. There’s many things to note in this part of the passage.
- This is one of the sections of the Scripture to where baptism — both of water and of the Spirit — seems to be required for inheritance into the kingdom of God. Baptism of water is a physical testimony to those around you of acceptance of the Way (Romans 6:1-7), and Baptism by the indwelling of the Spirit is the spiritual testimony as a pledge of our inheritance that we were God’s own possession (Ephesians 1:11-14).
- In English, it is not readily apparent but the same word for Spirit is the same word for wind. This is not a coincidence.
Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living [f]being.
When sin came into the world it corrupted man physically and spiritually. This is why there is physical and spiritual death. We lost that communion with God, and hence we do not understand how the Spirit moves. Yet, once we become Christians and start to walk by the Spirit we have a greater understanding of how the Spirit moves and works in us.
- Likewise, the word thelō is used in this passage to denote where the wind blows as it wishes.
G2309 — θέλω, ἐθέλω — thelō ethelō — thel’-o, eth-el’-o
Either the first or the second form may be used. In certain tenses θελέω theleō thel-eh’-o (and ἐθέλέω etheleō eth-el-eh’-o) are used, which are otherwise obsolete; apparently strengthened from the alternate form of G138; to determine (as an active voice option from subjective impulse; whereas G1014 properly denotes rather a passive voice acquiescence in objective considerations), that is, choose or prefer (literally or figuratively); by implication to wish, that is, be inclined to (sometimes adverbially gladly); impersonally for the future tense, to be about to; by Hebraism to delight in: – desire, be disposed (forward), intend, list, love, mean, please, have rather, (be) will (have, -ling, -ling [ly]).
The context in which this word is also used in other Scriptures is important. Here’s a few of the examples:
The Syrophonecian’s daughter is healed: Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish (thelō).”
Discipleship is costly: Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes (thelō) to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes (thelō) to save his [v]life will lose it; but whoever loses his [w]life for My sake will find it.
The greatest and the least: Matthew 20:26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes (thelō) to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His [n]life a ransom for many.”
The Spirit (pneuma) is not something that we don’t know where it is going, where it blows, and can only hear about it as Christians. Those born of the Spirit know where the Spirit is when they follow God’s commands — they are walking by the Spirit — and they know where the Spirit is when they do evil — they are walking by the flesh (Galatians 5).
9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
Nicodemus does not understand the meaning of spiritual rebirth, and his eyes are thus closed to the things of God even though he has born witness to the miracles and signs from Jesus. Indeed, Jesus criticizes Nicodemus for his supposed position as spiritual leader of Israel yet not understanding it.
One of the things that is often glossed over in Jesus’ speech here is the “we” in speaking of and testifying. The we is what Jesus speaks of later on in Matthew when He lambasts the scribes and Pharisees:
Matthew 23 (NASB)
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are [x]sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how [y]will you escape the [z]sentence of [aa]hell?
34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the [ab]temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
I assume that Jesus does not lambast Nicodemus here in John 3 is that because Nicodemus actually was humble enough to seek out the truth. Thus, Jesus told Him the harsh truth graciously instead of laying into him full blown. Indeed, as we can see from Nicodemus’ subsequent defense of Jesus (John 7) and his participation in the burial of Jesus that he was most likely influenced from this.
13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever [d]believes will in Him have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His [e]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the [f]only begotten Son of God.
Jesus then starts into a monologue that includes one of the most famous verses in the Scripture. The parallel Jesus draws from the Scripture is obvious from the snake lifted up to Jesus’ future death on a cross.
“Lifted up” is a phrase that is used throughout Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation — 329 times — to focus not on earthly things but on things above or Spiritual things. It’s easy for us to get caught up in earthly things and yet we must lift our eyes up to the Creator and Author of our faith.
19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
The main point Jesus is making here is that if we walk in the truth there is no need to obfusicate our intentions and actions. If we are called to love all the time — love our neighbors and even love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us — then is there really anything to hide?
I think that because we are Christians we often assume that we must be perfect or people might we are not a good witness. Likewise, we can gloss over not doing the right thing because we are afraid to make mistakes because God would want us to not make mistakes.
I admit I’ve been in those situations before many times where I hear something that is not theologically correct or I fail to call out men and women for gossiping or other such deeds. Indeed, I have sinned before, and I hate the fact that no one has called me out on it.
Are we that afraid of offending each other that we don’t do what God calls us to do among ourselves which is to root out sin in one another (Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians 5)?
Likewise here, we should not miss the fact that Jesus ending analogy of light and darkness is also relevant to Nicodemus’ own case here. Remember at the beginning of the passage the Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night and in secret. Likewise, Nicodemus feared that his deeds of speaking with Jesus would be made known to the Pharisees.
But this gets through to Nicodemus, speaks up for Jesus later:
John 7 (NASB)
45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” 46 The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” 47 The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you? 48 No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? 49 But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) *said to them, 51 “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” 52 They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.” 53 [[l]Everyone went to his home.
The context of the culture was that those from Galilee were scorned as ignorant, unclean, and unsophisticated. Nicodemus ended up being righteously defending Jesus from the crowd, and He was insulted for it.
Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Part 2 — Return to Galilee
This part is going to be very brief as the passages were very short.
Matthew 4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;
Mark 1:14 Now after John had been [a]taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, [b]preaching the gospel of God,
John 4:Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.
The main point behind masculinity I want to make here is to use your time wisely.
Baptizing is indeed a good thing. I’m sure there were many more who wanted to come out and be baptized by the disciples of Jesus. However, Jesus knows that there are many things to do in His ministry and He cannot get caught up in doing only one thing.
Likewise, we as Christians do not have time for everything. Indeed, we are only called to be stewards of the time we have been given for what mission God has given us.
I know in particular the places in which I am called to serve in the Church currently as well as with my talents. But I don’t know if I should help out with other ministries currently and thus I pray and listen to God about it. I let Him put it on my heart and do the confirmation if He wants me to help in other places.
So there’s two things to take home with this passage:
- Know your mission from God and what you are supposed to be doing about it.
- Be flexible for God to move and use you even in things that may or may not be in your mission.
Here are the main points that we can learn from these passages.
- Masculine men (and all Christians) should be doing what God commands in the Scriptures.
- We know where the Spirit is when we walk with the Spirit, and we know that when we fall into sin that we walk with the flesh and not with the Spirit. Walk in Spirit and in Truth as much as possible overcoming the lies of the evil one.
- We should have a boldness — be strong and courageous — in our faith, not hiding it in secret like many of us are prone to do. I am often guilty of this, and it’s a big thing I need to work on in my own life.
- It’s easy to walk your faith around those who are Christians, but it is difficult to do it around non-Christians. But that is the witness to which we are called. Overcoming these obstacles are when your faith will begin to shine just as acting rightously when you are wrong is hard but that will show your faith the most.
- We should not be afraid to call out sin graciously among those who are also looking to learn about what God wants.
- Use your time wisely. Read the Scripture, pray and listen from God about what you should be doing.
- Know your mission from God and what you are supposed to be doing about it. If you don’t know what your mission is pray and listen to God about it.
- Be flexible for God to move and use you even in things that may or may not be in your mission.
If there are any more thoughts on these passages let me know in the comments.