Dr. Ed Young - A New Nature
Jesus began his public ministry in Jerusalem, in Judea, on the temple mount, there at the temple. The perfect place to begin, would you say? And when you read the Bible about the temple that can't be talking about the temple mount, which is an area of 19 acres. But on the temple mount in Jesus' day, if you went there you would go from east to west. And you would go in through the court of the Gentiles, the court of the women, you'd go to the court of Israel, you'd go to the court of the priests. And then you would move and see the offers of sacrifice, then there was a holy place, and then there was the holy of holies in the temple itself.
So when Jesus went up into the temple, he first entered the court of the Gentiles. And you remember what he saw? It was a cattle auction. It was money-changers. Jews from all over the world by the thousands came to Jerusalem to remember and to celebrate this moment, and they were going to buy various kinds of animals and doves to offer a sacrifice for their sin to the temple. And there in the court of the Gentiles, it was at an auction place where you'd buy cattle at exorbitant prices. Sheep, goat auctions, sometime doves. And then you had to pay your temple tax, a half-shekel for every Jew that was over 20 years of age. And they, the Jews would not take the coinage from the various nations they came from, they'd have to take their coins from all the nations and exchange it into Jewish coins.
What a chance for profit! Man, you talk about, jacking up the price. You talk about making money. And you'd never seen a thing about it. The slipped-slide, quick movement there, you couldn't find anything like it unless you visit New York Stock Exchange, I guess. And that was when Jesus saw the exploitation of the common people, he went over and made a whip. And he went and took that whip and he drove the animals out of the court of the Gentiles. And he went over, he turned over all the tables of the money-exchangers. And he drove them out and said, God's house, the temple, the place of worship for prayer, has been made into an exploitive business. Get out of here. He just, in Texas terms, cleaned house. Naturally they had taken care of the floor, picked up some litter, then the temple could be entered. And sacrifice and worship could take place.
Now when Jesus did that, you talk about upsetting the power structure in Jerusalem and Israel! My, my, my, this was the season where they made all their money! Passover! Business big time! Make or break. And then the authorities went to him and they said, right here in the second chapter of John, Who do you think you are, Jesus? By what authority do you do the things that you do? Jesus' answer was interesting. He said, you destroyed this temple. In three days, it'll be put right back in place. They thought he was talking about the physical temple. He was talking about his body. He was talking about the destruction of his body on the cross, and how in three days he would have a new resurrected body. He would be rediscovered, reconstituted into a new person, an eternal person. They missed it.
And then it says, in this same Scripture, in John chapter 2 that Jesus taught during the Passover all around the temple. And it says that many people believed. They believed. They believed because of his signs, his miracles. How many miracles you think can be counted in the Bible that Jesus performed in three-and-a-half years? 36. There were others, we're sure, but only 36 can be counted. Three and a half years, that's about one a month, isn't it? You see, Jesus knew if you attract crowds by sensational acts, you have to do something more sensational next time, and the next time. That's the reason they jumped off the temple, remember? When he was being tempted? No show business.
And a lot of people believe, because the signs, and look what Jesus says about that. Latter part of John chapter 2, "But Jesus on his part," verse 24, "was not entrusting himself to them, for he, Jesus, knew all men. And because he did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for he himself knew what was in man". Isn't that interesting? Jesus knew the real from the artificial. He knew those who were just following him because of all the signs and the sensation of the moment. He knew man. And then he begins right in chapter 3. By the way, John chapter 3 is one of the great chapters in the Bible. Romans 8, John 3, start of Genesis 1, Revelation 20, some great chapters. But John 3 is one of the greatest. And it's so interesting. It says, "Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews".
In other words, Jesus knew mankind, and then he said, here's a man, in other words, would represent the best that human production can reveal. Nicodemus. So, I call him Nick at Night. Because you went to Jesus at night. People say, well, he was ashamed. No. That's when people would meet. They'd go to housetops, all the hustle in there, Nick could have a private audience with this new, itinerant, prophet-type from Galilee. So Nick goes to Jesus. And I want you to see two or three things.
Number one, Nicodemus knew about Jesus, and he thought Jesus needed credentials, confirmation, legitimacy. Because Jesus had just cleansed the temple, of all things. And Nick goes to him, and what broad, complimentary words does he say about Jesus? He says, "The man came to Jesus by night, and said to him, 'Rabbi.'" He gives Jesus the title Rabbi. He had no way, that was not a legitimate title, Jesus had finished no institution, he hadn't been ordained, he hadn't been set aside, he hadn't been certified. But here Nick calls him Rabbi. Man, quite a thing! He says, "We know you have come from God". Whoa. He recognized Jesus was a messenger from God? He says a teacher. What a great, great word. A teacher. "For no one can do these signs, a miracle worker, unless God is with him".
Let me tell you something. Nicodemus got it, didn't he? He said, he gave him the title of Rabbi. He said, you've supported you have signs and miracles, you must be from God. And you're a teacher whom God has ordained and God has touched. You see, Nick was giving Jesus legitimacy! Not some you-born-rabble-rouser from Galilee who had cleansed the temple. He saw perhaps that Jesus, if he were the Messiah, was fulfilling prophecy when he cleaned out God's house. Prophecy in Zechariah. Prophecy in Malachi chapter 3. Prophecy in Psalm chapter 19. He was fulfilling prophecy. Cleaning up a place of worship. And maybe, somehow, Nick saw this. And so he thought to give Jesus legitimacy. But notice about Jesus. Jesus also knew about Nick, but look what he says. Jesus answered, verse 3, and said to him, "Truly, truly".
By the way, truly, truly means amen, amen. It means book it! Nail it down! This is true truth! Jesus says, true truth, I say to you, Nicodemus, "Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God". Huh. Nicodemus? You've got every base covered. But yet you, Nicodemus, need to be born again, or you'll never get to the kingdom of God. When Nicodemus thought he represented the kingdom of God. He had everything the world could offer, and everything the kingdom of God could offer, and here this Jesus was saying, whom he just legitimized, you gotta be born again.
Ladies and gentlemen, someone says to me, well, I've always been a Christian, you know, my mother, and dad were Christians, we were brought up in the church. Nonsense! Nonsense! Jesus says we have to be born again and have a new nature, a new appetite, a new vision, new insight. That's what it takes to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It takes a new birth. Even Nicodemus, trained, disciplined, moral, erudite, wealthy, had everything position, political esteem, he had it all, and he had to be born again if he were ever to see the kingdom of God. We're born again, no matter where we are in life. And then Nicodemus was still confused. In other words, the word that I use for Nicodemus here is bewildered. Ever been bewildered? I mean, here was Nick, who... man, he was at the top of the line here.
This prophet, whom he just legitimized, saying, Nick, you gotta be born again. You can't make it on just rules and laws and discipline, you gotta be born again. And then we have two how questions asked by Nick. Look at them. I think they're very, very revealing in this conversation at night on top of a roof, in all probability. He says, "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"? In other words, he ain't goin' back in your mother's womb and be born again, he took it literally. And Jesus answered, he said, "Truly, truly". There's our word, amen amen. It's absolutely true, "I say to you, unless one is born of water," that probably means physical birth, water breaks, there's the birth, "and of the spirit," that's a spiritual birth, "he cannot enter into the kingdom of God".
In other words, there is a physical birth in this world. There's a spiritual birth into the next world. A physical birth on earth, a spiritual birth that prepares us now and carries us all the way through to heaven. Then Jesus says, verse 6, that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. In other words, flesh begets flesh. A cat doesn't give birth to a dog. Cats give birth to cats. A plum tree doesn't produce watermelons. Plum trees produce plums, and watermelon vines produce other watermelons. Light begets light. When we gave birth to our children, our children were born with our sin, our natural sin, within them, just like we were born. We pass that down in lineage. Flesh is flesh, spirit is spirit, and we have to be born again to change our appetites.
And then this little verse is so very interesting. And Jesus is speaking to the confusion, the bewilderment, I think, of Nick. And he says, "that which is born of flesh is flesh, spirit is spirit". Verse 7, "Do not be amazed, Nick, that I said to you, you must"! That's an imperative. You must be born again. Nick couldn't get it! He had everything. He would say, you know, I need to be born again? I was Pastor before I came here in the First Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina. The church is uniquely located, it's right in the heart of that capital city. So you can imagine the street traffic that we had. Prostitutes, addicts, all around the street 24/7. From the bars, able to come in drunk and fall into the various doors that went into the church.
Now just imagine, I'm going there to speak, and I'm speaking on John 3 and talking about second chances. You must be born again. And I would go into the church I Pastor, which is a prestigious church, the sitting Governor was a member, his family would come in a limo and sit on the back. We had the city manager, we had judges, we had politicians, we had doctors, we had people, business people, from all walks of life, typical deep South First Baptist Church, all the elite, many generations membership there. And I went in there and told them, no matter who you from, what you've done, what you accomplish, what your position is, you've gotta be born again. You need a second chance, a fresh beginning. And they would sit there.
But I think that message, had I gone out into the streets, which I did, and I would see people who maybe still had needles in their arm, who are still getting over a drunk, who would come in on a bus to go to the hospital to hope for some answers, to those who people were bringing them there to admit them into a home for those who are mentally disturbed. I got, I think out there in the street I'd say, look! God in Christ can give you a new chance. You could be forgiven. And whatever you did last night doesn't make any difference, God will forgive, God will let you be born again, you'll have a whole new look and life!
You know, they were a lot more receptive than those who sat in the pews. You wonder why? Oh yeah. There was a desperation there. There was a need there. You're gonna have a new beginning. Whatever has happened in the past doesn't make any difference to God. You need to be born again and Christ has provided a way for you to be born again. So that's the message. Nicodemus was amazed. Absolutely amazed. I need to be born again? Then there's that other how. Nicodemus asked a second how question. And he moves down he said, he said, "You must be born again," verse 7. verse 8, he said, "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going, so is someone who is born of the spirit".
Do you think we know today where the wind comes from? Which way it's going to go? If you think so, you have been watching all these hurricanes. Well, it could come down this way, we've got one pattern, it moves across this way, we think it's gonna be Thursday, but it could be Thursday three weeks- they don't know! Don't have a clue! They have patterns and trends and what they believe. The wind is very capricious. God controls it. Thank God that he does. He controls the wind of the Holy Spirit, that's exactly what we're saying here. The spirit of God blows and moves, and it convicts, and it convinces, and it causes some who didn't even know they needed it to be born again, to come to Christ, have a fresh new beautiful start in life.
What an amazing thing! And then there's that how. Nicodemus says, verse 9, "How can these things be true"? The second how. "Jesus answered, and said to him, 'are you, Nick, a teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?'" In other words, jesus said, look, Nick, have you read the Old Testament? You're a scholar. Do you not know how the spirit of God has touched David, had changed him? How the spirit of God led this prophet? Do you not see that all the way through everything you studied? What's the matter with you, Nick? The spirit of God makes all the difference in the world. And then Jesus goes on. "Truly, truly," there's our words, "I say to you, we speak of what we know," says Jesus to Nick, "and testify to what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. I told you earthly things and you do not believe, Nick, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things"?
What's he saying? Jesus is saying, look, Nick, I want to tell you something. You've already said I'm from God. You've already said my teaching is valid. You've already said all the legitimacy I needed because I am a breath from God itself. And now you won't believe me when I point out to you, for example, that all those John the Baptist baptized, repented, and were baptized, they're brand new people by the power of the spirit, and when they receive me they'll be born from above. They'll have a brand new, clean, sparkling, transparent life. Don't you get that, Nick? And then that little verse there. Jesus said, "No one has ascended to heaven, but he who has descended from heaven, the son of man". He's saying to Nick, I came from heaven, my home is in heaven, and I descended to this earth and I'm speaking authoritatively about these matters that even somebody as moral, as powerful, as wealthy, as influential as you, you gotta be born again. You gotta be born again.
Now we've got two how questions Nick asked. How can this be, how? But there is that unasked question. And this whole passage kept haunting me. Well, it's sorta like there's an elephant in the room, something that's not being asked in this dialogue, and Jesus, I think, perceives that unasked question. And it was not how can I be born again? Nick kept asking. He really wanted to ask, why do I, of all people, need to be born again? Jesus answers in the next verse. And let me say it up front. The answer is, Nick, you've been bitten by the snake. Nick, you're snake-bitten. And he used an Old Testament passage where Nick would get it. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up".
And then the next verse, he just follows through, and he moves on and he says, "Nick, so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life". He's talking about the cross. Those Israelites rebelled, snakes came and started to bite all them, they began to die, they were dying, and they went to Moses and said, what can we do? And Moses went to God, and God said, you take a stick, and put a bronze snake on that stick, a symbol they'd been bitten by the snake. That's the reason they were dying, they were disobedient, they were sinners. And God said to Moses, hold up that snake on that stick, and everybody who looks at the snake on the stick will be healed, they'll be saved, and they did.
And Jesus is saying, this is what's gonna happen, Nick. I'm going to be crucified. I'm gonna take all the bite, all the sin that's in you, and the poison and everybody else, and I'm going to die for that poison so that they might have life. And that is the way that they can have a brand new life, they can be born again. That was the answer. Now I've got a question. You read commentaries on this passage, and there are just hundreds of them, I've read, read, read. And they're divided on whether or not Nicodemus was a Christian.
All right, they're equally divided. Some say he was a Christian because of this, some say, oh no, he wasn't a Christian because of this. Let me tell you something. I am convinced that Nick was a born-again Christian, that he became a born-again Christian. Let me tell you why. Later on, the Sanhedrin, Supreme Court, discussing Jesus, and they were already convicting him, and Nicodemus spoke up and said, look, somebody's innocent until proven guilty. You have to have evidence. Everybody's innocent, you have to prove his guilt, you're not giving him a fair trial. He spoke up for Jesus in the Supreme Court.
Also, when Jesus was crucified, Joseph of Arimathea, also a member of the Supreme Court, lent Jesus his tomb. He didn't need it very long. Lent Jesus his tomb, and in that passage of Joseph of Arimathea also has mentioned Nicodemus. And so that's an assumption. Also he was Messiah and one sign would be Nicodemus gave all the myrrh and the aloe that were needed as spice to bury Jesus as was that custom, and it was over 75 pounds of myrrh and aloe. This was the amount that would be given and spent for someone who would be a king. But that didn't convince me. What nailed down the fact that Nick was indeed born again was, I am sure as a theologian, a scholar, he went back and recalled what happened there on that housetop.
And what happened in John 3. And Nick said, you know, when he talked about his body, if it were destroyed it'd be raised in three days, he looked back on that and said, that's what happened. And he looked back on this passage about the snake being lifted up, he said, he died on a cross. And he looked back and talked about Jesus ascending and descending, that would be his, Jesus', ascent into heaven after appearing 40 days on this earth in his resurrected body, witnessed to by 500-1,000 people. Oh that would be his ascension. And then the wind blowing where it wants to blow, that would be Pentecost. And so Nick had evidence of the major points in the life of Jesus, and I am convinced that Nick at Night was a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.