The Discourses Of John – Background Information:
In the Synoptic Gospels we tend to see that when Jesus speaks, he does so in short memorable sayings. Even the parables are not too long and are often broken down into more than one part. In John’s Gospel, however, we find that he teaches using long drawn out discourses and often we find that these discourses either follow one of the signs that we have already thought of in this Gospel, or take place on the occasion of one of the Jewish feasts. The discourse which accompany a sign are intended to help compliment the meaning of that sign and the discourses that accompany a Jewish feast are linked to the theme of Jesus as the replacement of these feasts and rituals. The discourses themselves are all quite different and tonight we will begin by looking at Jesus encounter with Nicodemus.
Read John 3:1-21
What is the first thing that strikes us about this meeting?
- Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, why do you think that was?
- He didn’t want to be associated with Jesus.
- He was afraid that the Pharisees would punish him if the knew of this meeting.
Are there times in our lives when we are either afraid or don’t want to be associated with Jesus?
What is interesting about the way in which Nicodemus begins to speak?
- He begins by using the word, ‘we’. But who are, ‘we’?
- Does he represent a group within the Pharisees who might believe in Jesus? We know of Joseph of Arimathaea, but were there others? If so, why don’t we hear more of them within the Gospels.
Why did Nicodemus want to meet with Jesus anyway?
- Perhaps he wanted to ‘examine’ Jesus for himself. To find out what was true and what was false about all he may have heard of him. To satisfy any questions or doubts.
- What about us today – why do we want to meet with Jesus ?
- And even now as Christians, do we still have questions and doubts in the way that Nicodemus possibly did?
Do we need to examine Jesus for ourselves?
Jesus then begins to speak of the Kingdom of God and how one can enter it. What might Nicodemus have believed about the Kingdom of God.
- That it would be ruled by God, it would be restored on earth and it would incorporate God’s people – i.e. the Jews.
What about us today, what do we believe we are talking about when we speak of God’s Kingdom?
We then come on to that well know phrase, ‘born again’, but what does that actually mean?
- In the original Greek, the word used here for ‘again’ could either mean ‘again’, or ‘from above’.
- Maybe a combination of both are required to understand this. Maybe we need to be ‘born again, from above’ i.e. by the spirit. In other words, only when we allow the Holy Spirit to enter our lives are we made new in Christ.
- But what else might this allude to? Baptism?
What does the response of Nicodemus teach us about our faith?
- Knowledge of Jesus, whilst it is important, is not enough; it will not win us salvation. Only understanding of who He was and why He came.
- And as if to amplify that, we are told in verses 14 and 15 that only by looking up to Christ believing that He will save us, will win us that salvation.
Verse 16 is possibly the most famous verse in the entire Bible, the entire Gospel focuses on this verse and it is here that we learn that God gave His Son for everyone who would believe.
The question is, however, what does it mean to us personally?
In the last few verses we go back to the theme of Jesus as the light of the world, the light that darkness can never extinguish, and we are reminded once again of the brutal reality of the message of Christ.
Believe it and walk in His light.
Reject it and suffer condemnation.
We hear more of Nicodemus in chapter 7:50-52 where he speaks up for Jesus in the Council, although even here he still offers no outright support for Jesus, and of course in chapter 19:39-40 he is there with Joseph of Arimathaea at the burial of Jesus. We have to believe that this encounter with Jesus changed his life for ever and that he did eventually come to fully believe in Christ, but we do not know that for certain.
How many people do we know of that might be in a similar position today?