Robert Morris - Nicodemus
Okay, so we're in a series called Divinely Human, and we've been looking at humans in the Bible that were divinely used by God. And last week, we looked at some practical ways we could choose between making a choice, or response, that's human or divine. This week, God spoke something so strongly to me. We're basing everything on 2 Peter 1:4, that we're partakers of the divine nature, but that's for people who are in the faith. In other words, you're born human. When Christ comes in, that's when the divine comes into your life. But if Christ hasn't come into your life, then you're not partly divine yet.
Now, here's the reason I'm saying this. There are many people that go to church that haven't given control of their life to Jesus Christ yet, and yet believe in Jesus. And I just want you to know, if you study the doctrine of salvation and just simply take some of the sayings of Jesus, like, "Anyone who wants to follow Me has to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me". That's just one, and I could give you hundreds. If you study salvation, believing means trust. It means you literally put your future in His hands. You give up control of your life. And until you give up control, then you're still lord. And as long as you're still lord, He's not Lord. So, I want you just to be open, because there are a lot of people who make a childhood commitment and then begin going to church and actually begin getting closer to God, but still need to have that born again, born from above experience.
So, this week we're going to talk about Nicodemus. And the line that came to me when I was getting ready to prepare this message was, how do you go from human to divine in a millisecond? Because it happened to me in a motel room when I finally gave up control. I walked into that motel room addicted to many sins, and walked out with no desire to do any of those sins anymore. No desire. What happened to me was divine. And I know many people this has happened to. All right? So, Debbie, when she got saved, when she was nine, I was saved when I was older, and she was immediately set free from bubblegum, immediately, just like that. Immediate deliverance. Okay, so I'm going to read this out of the New Living Translation in 2 Peter, because I think we'll catch it a little better. All right?
2 Peter 1:1 says, "I'm writing to you who share the same precious faith we have". In other words, that the disciples have, You share the same faith. "This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior". Verse three. "By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all this by coming to know him". And verse four says, "These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature". But the way we share His divine nature is we give our lives to Jesus Christ. We put our faith, that's what he's saying here, in Jesus Christ. We receive all this, is what he said, by coming to know Him.
So, I'm going to tell you some things about Nicodemus that you might not have known, but let's read the main passage. But then I'll show you some other passages that you might not have even known they were about Nicodemus, and some that say Nicodemus, that you might not have ever seen. So, John 3:1. Remember, John starts with the first two years of Jesus' ministry. We talked about John, so we got John 1, John 2, His first miracle. This is John 3. This is early in His ministry. John 3:1. "There was a man of the Pharisees..." So, Nicodemus was a Pharisee. I'll tell you the difference in a moment between Pharisees and Sadducees. "...named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews". Okay, that means he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Pharisees were teachers of the law. The Sanhedrin were rulers of the law. If you broke the law, the Sanhedrin came to get you. The Pharisees were the ones that taught the law. Okay?
So, he's a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin Council, but he was not a member of the Sadducees. You couldn't be a Pharisee and a Sadducee. And I'll show you why in a moment. All right? "This man came to Jesus by night..." So, he doesn't want any of his friends to know that he's talking to Jesus. "...and he said to Him..." Rabbi simply means teacher. First thing he does is call Him Teacher. We're going to see in a moment a verse about another man coming to Jesus that most theologians believe is Nicodemus, that you may have never even thought of this person as Nicodemus, All right? So, the first thing he does, remember, is called Him a teacher, and he says, "...we know you are a teacher come from God: for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him".
Now, that's important because Pharisees believed in signs and Sadducees didn't, and that was the main difference between them, by the way. Well, actually, there's one more, and I'll share that with you minute. "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God". So, we don't human and divine, okay? So, immediately the Divine speaks. The Divine says, "Unless one is born again", and from the Greek, this would be translated "born from above". "Unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God".
So, He says something divine. Nicodemus, now, is on a human level still, and he's not accepted Christ yet. So, he asked a human question. Jesus said, "'Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old?'" That's a fair question. "Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?'" Now the divine comes back with the answer. "Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.'"
Now, let me just stop, just for a moment. There are some that have said this refers to water baptism. It does not refer to water baptism because that's not the context. The context is natural birth and spiritual birth. Jesus said, Unless someone is born spiritually, he can't go to heaven. Nicodemus says, Well, how can a man be born naturally again? Can he enter his mother's womb? That's natural birth. See, the whole conversation, and I'll show you in verse 6 the confirmation of it. But the whole conversation is natural birth and spiritual birth. Jesus says, "Unless one is born of water", that's natural birth, "and the Spirit", that spiritual birth, "he can't go to heaven". So, how do I know water is natural birth? Because Nicodemus just asked him, "Can he enter again into his mother's womb"? And that is a womb of water, in case you didn't know.
Let me just remind you. What do you do if your wife is pregnant and she says to you, "My water broke"? What do you do? Go to the hospital, immediately. You don't go to the drive through, especially at Whataburger. I love Whataburger, but it takes a long time because they kill the cow after you order. But I still go because I like it, and it's a Texas institution. I like that. I don't know if you all know, Patrick Mahomes is trying to get Whataburgers in Kansas right now, Kansas City. So anyway, it's just a little fact because he wants a Whataburger. Okay, I want them, too, but here's, I don't even know what I was talking about. All right? Oh, water. You don't go through a drive through when your wife says, "My water broke". What does that mean? It means there's about to be a natural birth. Jesus said, that which is born of water. You must be born of water and Spirit.
So, let me confirm it to you. Verse 6 again. You still might. Natural birth and spiritual birth. Verse 6, Jesus says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you", and watch this, "You must..." Not, "You should..." This is not good advice. This is good news. "You must be born again". You've been born once. You must be born again. You've been born naturally, but you must be born spiritually. You've been born as a human, but you must now be born as a divine person. That's the human and the divine. And you can't be used divinely by God, and you can't make a divine decision if the Divine hasn't come into your life, and the Divine will not come into your life if you're going to be boss. It's like what he said to Joshua, when Joshua said, "Are you on our side or their side"? He said, "No, I'm not here to take sides. I'm here to take over".
And that's exactly what Jesus says to people today. "I'm not here to be on your side. You're either going to be on My side or you're going to be on the devil's side. But I'm here as Lord". So, even today you don't come to Jesus and tell Him, I'll serve You if You do this, this, this, and this. Gosh. I just thought of something that I thought, "You can't say that in church". I'm going to say it anyway. you know how I am. because we can edit stuff, see? So, before it goes out to the millions, we can edit it. But I don't mean this wrong. I don't mean this wrong, okay? But when you say, "I'm going to serve you on my terms".
Jesus could say, "Then you can just go to hell. And that's your choice. And I don't want you to. That's why I died on the cross for you and became a human for 33 and a half years and lived on your stinking planet that y'all ruined, that my Father and I created for you. But I did all that so you could go to heaven. But if you don't want to go to heaven, and if you don't want me to be Lord, there's nothing I can do about it because I created you in My image, and that means I created you with a will. And you have a choice. But your choice is either to surrender your will to Mine or to keep being in charge". And I'm preaching to a lot of men here because there are a lot of men who are still in charge, and there are a lot of women who are still in charge, and there are a lot of young people who are still in charge.
So, Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, and he says, "You're a great teacher". And immediately Jesus says, "You know you're going to hell. Unless you're born again, you're not going to be able to go to heaven. You can't even see the kingdom of God". And he says, "Well, how can a man be born when he's old? Can you enter into his mother's womb a second time"? He says, "No, you've got to be born of water and Spirit. That which is born of flesh is flesh. That which is born of Spirit of spirit. Don't marvel, don't get excited, don't get surprised that I said, 'You must be born again.' You must be born from above". Again, that's the literal Greek translation here. You must be born from above, you must be born spiritually.
This is an amazing conversation here. It's amazing because the Pharisees went to church. He wasn't talking to a prostitute right here, and He loves prostitutes, but He's talking to a church member. He's talking to church leader. Pharisees memorized the first five books of the Bible. You had to memorize Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and you couldn't be a Pharisee if you didn't memorize those books. And I know that doesn't impress you, because you did that years ago, and that's simple to do. He's talking to a guy who memorized the Bible, the Pentateuch, the first five books. He's talking to a guy who tithed on everything, strictly tithed. Even when they put ten English peas. I don't think they had English peas in Israel back then, but if they put ten English peas on their plate, they counted one off and they gave it to God. That's how strict they were on keeping the law.
And Jesus said to him, "You're not going to make it unless you're born from above". Let me just give you a little difference between why you can't be a Pharisee and a Sadducee. Pharisees believed in the supernatural, and Sadducees didn't. Pharisees believed in the resurrection, or life after death. Sadducees didn't. That's why they were sad, you see? Pharisees were merchants and business owners who worked very hard and made it on their own. They were what we would call today "new money". And Sadducees were born aristocrats. They were what we would call "old money". So, you could only be one or the other. So, he was a Pharisee, but he was also a member of the Sanhedrin. Let me show you on Sadducees that I told you. They didn't believe in the supernatural, or the resurrection.
Matthew 22:23. "The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection", and then they had a question to test Him. Acts 23:8, "For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both". So, Pharisees believed in the supernatural and life after death. Sadducees didn't. That's why Nicodemus said to Jesus, "We know You are a teacher come from God: for no one could do the miraculous signs that You do. I see your signs. I believe in the miraculous". But even though he believed, even in the miraculous, Jesus said, "But you still have to be born again or you're not going to go to heaven".
So, in Mark 10 is a story that many theologians believe is talking about Nicodemus. I believe it's talking about Nicodemus. And I can give you lots of reasons, and I'll give you some in this message, but I could give you lots of reasons. We base our beliefs on the Bible, obviously, the inspired writings, but we get a lot of our knowledge that I give you from two main historical writers who were Christians, but they were still considered trustworthy even by non-Christians or by the secular community. Josephus, who lived from about 37 AD to about 100 AD. and Tertullian, who lived from about 155 AD to 220 AD. And so, he wrote again, not first-hand account, but Josephus wrote a first-hand account. And so, these two men have given us a lot of the background of the history that, again, what they wrote is not Scripture, but it aligns with Scripture. Okay?
So, they talk about Nicodemus and they talk about some things, and I'm going to actually read you some things later that they wrote, okay? Josephus and Tertullian wrote one of them. Here's the point, though. In Mark 10, there's the story of the rich young ruler. Everyone heard of the rich young ruler? Okay. Most theologians believe that was Nicodemus. I believe it was Nicodemus. Now, first of all, I'm just going to give you three reasons, and then I'll give you some more later. Okay? So, the rich young ruler, okay. So, let me just tell you, Nicodemus was rich, young, and a ruler. So, that's just three. Okay? But I've got deeper reasons than that. Okay? Mark 10. It's in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this story. Mark 10:17, "Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, 'Good teacher'", first thing he does is call Him teacher, it's first thing Nicodemus did, "'what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?'"
Now remember, Jesus said, you can't have eternal life, you can't see heaven unless you're born again. I think Nicodemus thought, "Okay, I'm going to have to go back and ask Him a little more direct question because I don't understand that answer". So, he comes back, if this is him, and says, whoever this is says this, "What shall I do that I might inherit eternal life?' So, Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good, but One, that is, God.'" Always giving glory to God. He always gave glory to God. When they said, "We love the miracles you do," He said, "I don't do anything unless I first see My Father do". When they said, "We love your teachings," He said, "I don't say anything unless I first hear My Father say". Jesus always gave glory to his Father. Okay?
And then he says in verse 19, "'You know the commandments.'" Now, you could just count them with me if you want. "'"Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not defraud. Honor your Father and your mother."'" So, He only named six out of the ten. "And he answered and said to Him", this is why we believe it was Nicodemus, "'Teacher'", again, he calls Him Teacher, which is what he called Him in John 3, "all these things I have kept from my youth". And this aligns with some historical writings about Nicodemus. "Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him". Now, remember I told you last weekend that I didn't believe that Jesus was rebuking Martha, but He was speaking to her in love. I think He was speaking to this rich young ruler in love, and it tells us straight out, He loved him.
So, I don't think He said this in a mean way. I think He was trying to help him. He said, but there's "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor'", now watch this, "and you will have treasure in heaven", if you're a giver, you'll have treasure in heaven, "'and come, take up the cross and follow Me.' But he was sad at this word and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions". Okay, first of all, He didn't say to go to heaven, you have to sell everything. He said, if you sell everything and give to the poor, if you're a giver, you'll have treasure in heaven. But if you want to get to heaven, you need to take up your cross and follow Me. Which is what He said all through the rest of Scripture. Anyone who wants to follow Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.
So, that's the point. But what He was saying to this man that I believe to be Nicodemus was, but there's one thing that's keeping you from taking up your cross and following Me, and for you that's your possessions, because he had great possessions. And then it says he went away sad at this saying. I think we have completely misinterpreted that also, because what we say is, "Well, he didn't do it". It doesn't say he didn't do it. It just says he went away sad. If Jesus had told me to do it, I'd have gone away sad, too. It just says he went away sad. That just makes sense. He went away sad because he was very wealthy. But the Bible and history tells us that something happened in Nicodemus.
John 7:45. They sent some officers to arrest Jesus, and "the officers came to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who said to them, 'Why have you not brought Him?' The officers answered, 'No man ever spoke like this Man!' Then the Pharisees answered them, 'Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers...'" That's the Sanhedrin, which Nicodemus was a member of, or the Pharisees, which he was a member of, the Pharisees. Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd, these regular people that aren't as smart as we are, that does not know the law, is accursed. So, they're believing because they don't know. They're not very smart. They don't know the Bible like we do. Verse 50. Watch this. "Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them)", He was a ruler and a Pharisee, "said to them, 'Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?' They answered and said to him, 'Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.' And everyone went to his own house".
And everyone went to his own house because they had no answer for it. They never answered his question. But out of all the Sanhedrin and out of all the Pharisees, Nicodemus speaks up and says, "Wait a minute. Doesn't our law say that we don't judge someone without giving him a hearing"? Why would Nicodemus do this? In John 19, it says, "After this, Joseph of Arimathea", this is after Jesus died on the cross, "being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews", Joseph of Arimathea, "asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So, he came and took the body of Jesus". Look at verse 39 "And Nicodemus, who at first", in other words, the first time he talked to him.
So, possibly he was the rich young ruler, but the first time he came, came to Jesus by night. He also came to get the body of Jesus, bringing a mixture of Myrrh and aloes, about 100 pounds. History tells us that Nicodemus' best friend was Joseph of Arimathea. We know that he became a secret disciple, Joseph did, because we just read it. But do we know he was rich? Matthew 27:57, "Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus". So, he's rich also. Nicodemus is rich. And Isaiah 53:9 says, "He had done", talking about Jesus, "He had done no wrong and never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man's grave". That's Joseph of Arimathea.
So, Joseph is Nicodemus' best friend. Joseph goes and asks for His body, and they put Jesus' body in Joseph's tomb. Nicodemus was rich and reported to be much wealthier than Joseph. As a matter of fact, I'm going to read you in a moment a historical comment that Nicodemus was so rich they could have fed everyone in Jerusalem for ten years. Remember the rich young ruler? Oh, by the way, Nicodemus, this is recorded in history, was the richest, youngest ruler ever appointed to the Sanhedrin. And they used to actually call him the rich young ruler.
That's another reason I think he might have been the rich young ruler, but they put him in Joseph's tomb, who was Nicodemus' best friend. I have a question for you. Why didn't they put him in Nicodemus' tomb? Maybe he had sold it. Maybe he had an encounter with Jesus by night, and then he just couldn't stand anymore, and he had to run up to him in the middle of the day and say, "Please tell me, what do I have to do to have eternal life"? Because remember, the Pharisees believed in life after death, but the Sadducees didn't. And maybe he went away sad, but he did it. And so, maybe instead of putting Jesus in his tomb, he went to Joseph and said, "Can we put his body in your tomb"? And remember, Jesus said He was going to rise from the grave. Maybe Nicodemus said, "He won't need it for very long, though. We just want to rent it for three days".
So, let me just read you from some Bible commentaries that, they get this from Josephus. This is from Adam Clarke's commentary. "A person of the name of Nicodemus, the son of Gorion, is mentioned in the Jewish writings... was reputed to be so rich that he could support all the inhabitants of Jerusalem for ten years". That's what Josephus said about him. This is from Nelson's Bible Dictionary. "Christian tradition has it that Nicodemus was baptized by Peter and John". I thought that was so cool. I already knew that, but I thought it was so cool when I read it again because I've already preached on Peter and John, and now I'm preaching on Nicodemus, that Josephus says Peter and John baptized him. He was "baptized by Peter and John, suffered persecution from hostile Jews, lost his membership in the Sanhedrin, and was forced to leave Jerusalem because of his Christian faith". Nicodemus.
This is from McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. "We can easily believe the tradition that after the resurrection, he", Nicodemus, "became a professed disciple of Christ, and received baptism at the hands of Peter and John. It is said... that the Jews, in revenge for his conversion, deprived him of his office, beat him cruelly, and drove him from Jerusalem". This is from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. "Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin and was counted one of the three richest men of Jerusalem. But it was said that he afterward became poor, and his daughter was seen gathering barleycorn for food from under the horses' feet".
My personal belief, he did it. He gave up everything to follow Jesus. I'm not saying you need to sell everything. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying you got to give up everything. And I am going to come back to Jesus' own words. "You must be born from above". You've already been born naturally, but you must, if you want to go to heaven, you must be born from above. I believe this happens for most people as an adult. I do believe children can be saved. My wife was saved as a child. But all three of our kids, and you know them all: Josh, James, and Elaine, all three of them made childhood commitments. And all three of them, somewhere around the age of 20, some before, some a little after, made an adult decision to follow Christ. And that's when we saw them change. Do you know why? Because you have a will.
See, when I was eight years old, they were giving out the Lord's Supper at church. I thought it was great. Refreshments at church. What a great idea. And the little communion tray came down, and it was these little pieces of bread. But I remember thinking, "Ten or twelve of them will tide me over". And my dad said to me, "You can't have that". Just being a good dad, teaching me about Christ and all. And I said, "Why can't I have that"? He said, "Because you're not a Christian yet". And then came some grape juice. I love grape juice. I went to get some grape juice. He said, "You can't have that". "Why can't I have that"? "You're not a Christian yet".
Do you know what my next question was? "How do you become a Christian? I'm ready. I want to sign up right now. If Christians get refreshments and non-Christians don't, I'm ready". He said, "We'll have the pastor come over and talk to you after church". "It's too late! The grape juice was three rows back"! I didn't care about becoming a Christian anymore. I'd already missed the refreshments. Pastor came over. I'm sure he did a great job. But basically, this is what he said. I'm eight years old now, okay? I'm not stupid. I'm just eight. I can reason. And this is basically what he said. I'm sure he said more than this, but this is what I heard. "If you ask Jesus into your heart, then when you die, you go to heaven. If you don't ask Jesus into your heart, then you're going to burn in hell. Would you like to ask Jesus into your heart"?
I'm not an idiot. I'm just eight. I can understand that. "Yes, I would like to ask Jesus into my heart". So he said, "Next week when we give the altar call, you come down". And he led me in a prayer, and I asked Jesus into my heart. Here's the problem, though. The Holy Spirit wasn't drawing me; the grape juice was drawing me. And then they gave me a card, and I thought, "Hey, I can write. I can fill this out myself. I want to fill this", she said, "I'll fill it out for you," this lady, who was the pastor's wife. I said, "I'll fill it out. I can write". And I wrote my name and my address, and I was proud of myself.
Then down the bottom, I had these things to check. And I thought, If I'm going to be a Christian, I'll be a good Christian, you know. So, I checked everything on the card. Said, "Accepts Christ the Savior," check. "Water baptism," check. Then it said, "Rededicates life to Christ," check. And then it said "Letter". I don't know if you remember this, but in the Baptist church, when you went to another church, you moved your letter. Do you remember that? I didn't know what kind of letter they wanted me to write. I thought maybe a recommendation letter so that other eight-year-olds would read it and come to church. Yes, I'll write you a letter. You want a letter? I'll write a letter. Check. And then it was like RAs, GAs, WMU, women's Bible study, Check, check, check, check, check. I checked it all. I didn't get saved.
And I'm talking to some of you right now because you walked an aisle, joined the church, and you believe in Jesus. You're not a bad person, but you need to make a decision. Are you going to give Him control of your life? He said to Nicodemus, "For you, I'm going to need you to do what I'm asking everybody. I'm going to need you to be willing to give up everything to follow Me. Take up your cross and follow Me". I'm asking you, will you... Now, here's what happened to me when I did get saved. I was in a motel room. I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit that I didn't feel when I was eight. I felt the drawing of the Holy Spirit. And that's what you're feeling right now, some of you.
At this campus, at another campus, at home, on television, you're feeling the drawing of the Holy Spirit. You know what that means? It's time for you to say yes. It's time for you to experience what it's like to go from being human to divine in a millisecond because Jesus changes your heart. I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes, and I want you to just take a moment and I want to help you give your life to Jesus Christ. And here's what I would say to you. If you have any doubts, then give your life to Jesus. If you're not absolutely, totally sure that when you die you will go to heaven, then give your life to Jesus right now.
And I just want to help you. And what I'd like to do is pray a prayer out loud and just ask you to pray this in your heart and just in your heart. Even though you're repeating the phrases after me, you know that you're praying this to God. So, if you know you need to give control of your life to Jesus, will you just pray this in your heart as I pray out loud, just in your heart's sake?
"Dear God", just tell Him that, "Dear God, I know I'm a sinner". That simply means you're telling Him, I'm not perfect. "I know I've done things wrong. I know I'm a sinner, and I ask You", tell Him that, "I ask You to forgive me for all of my sins. I believe", tell Him that, "I believe that You're the Son of God and that You died on the cross for me, and You rose again on the third day, and I receive You today", just tell Him, "I receive You today as my Lord and as my Savior. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me today".
Now, I'm the only one that's looking around. I ask no one else to look around right now because I just want to give you a private moment. But if you prayed that prayer and you really meant it, would you just put your hand way up high where I see it? Put it way up high. You ought to be proud to put it up. You shouldn't be embarrassed to put your hand up. Put it way up high. Way up high. And it's amazing, amazing. Hands all over the sanctuary. God bless you.
Lord, I want to tell You, thank You. You can put your hands down. Thank you, thank You, thank You for every person that prayed that prayer, and just like Nicodemus, accepted Jesus today. And I speak over them life and health and peace and blessings and joy because they've settled it today. Jesus Christ is their Lord from this day forward. In Jesus' name, amen and amen, and amen, and amen. Thank You, Lord.