12 Feb 2011, Dr Alex Currie
(Alex is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
Night Talk (third in a series on the Gospel of John)
A key concept in the gospel of John is "transformation". In John 1:35-41, Jesus says to Peter "you are Cephas but you will become". Transformation was anticipated. In John 2 Jesus transforms water into wine, (transformation was evident) but could people be changed or transformed? The answer comes in the first part of John 3.
Nicodemus (whose name means 'conqueror of the people') came to Jesus by night. What do we know about Nicodemus?
- Normally Jesus was surrounded by ordinary people but Nicodemus is an aristocrat.
- He was wealthy or had wealthy friends. In John 19:19 he gave 100 pounds of myrrh (an aromatic gum resin and aloes (gum oil) used for embalming to bury Jesus. In today's dollars that would be worth more than $500,000.
- Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was one of 6000 in a brotherhood known as "Chaburah". One entered this brotherhood by pledging before three witnesses that he would spend his life observing every detail of the scribal law. Scribes codified Judaism's rules and regulations into the Mishnah. This is where legalism originated. The section on the Sabbath contained 24 chapters. Further they wrote the Talmud that explained the Mishnah. This contained 64 ½ columns on Sabbath regulations. Their religion had become rules and regulations not relationships
- He was a ruler of the Jews - an archon, or member of the seventy, called the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jews. This court had supreme jurisdiction over Jews.
- Most likely Nicodemus came from a distinguished family. Name Nicodemus was rare, but in 63 BC a Nicodemus was made ambassador to Pompey. Then at the fall of Jerusalem, Gorion, son of Nicodemus negotiated Jewish surrender. Perhaps they all came from the same family.
- Nicodemus sought Jesus under cover of darkness. He was cautious, but Rabbis advised that the best time for Law study was night.
In the field of communication bonding is achieved when two people break through the Cliché level, the gossip and news level to share on the "I Think" level where one is able to share their views, ideas, perceptions and judgments. Jesus achieved this with Nicodemus and it appears he became a lifelong friend. (John 7:50; 19:19)
Note the conversational pattern. Nicodemus comments, then Jesus replies by sharing a difficult concept, which is misunderstood by Nicodemus. Jesus answers Nicodemus with a more difficult saying, followed by deep conversation and explanation. Not only did this conversation reach the "I Think" level but delved in the "I Feel" level. From verse 10 on Jesus generated feelings in Nicodemus that really hit home and that created lifetime bonds.
Initially, Nicodemus tried to be very courteous, commending Jesus on the signs and wonders he performed. But Jesus replied that it was not the miracles that were important but the dramatic change that can come to human, a 'new birth'. The Greek word for 'born anew" is anothen which has three meanings. a. From the beginning, radically or completely. b. Second time. c. From above, or by grace of God. No one English word conveys its meaning.
Barclay writes ""In his heart there was a great unsatisfied longing. It is as if he said with infinite, wistful yearning: "You talk about being born anew; you talk about this radical, fundamental change which is so necessary. I know that it is necessary, but in my experience it is impossible...It is not the desirability of this change that Nicodemus questioned; that he knew only to well; it is the possibility. Nicodemus is up against the eternal problem, the problem of the man who wants to be changed and who cannot change himself." - Barclay, p 125
While speaking Jesus moved from right brain words, logic and numbers to right brain concepts of imagination, creativity and wholistic thought. How one sees things often depends on one's worldview. A world view is a 'big picture' view of the world; a harmony of beliefs about the world. A person's worldview becomes the basis for making daily decisions. Take one's understanding of the word APPLE. A MAC user sees it as a computer. A botanist wants it classified, while an artist sees still life and paints it. A child sees it as part of lunch, while a grocer views it as an asset and sells it. So how we view any situation is largely influenced by how we look at the world at large.
Every world view is shaped by three questions: 1. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going 2. What's wrong with our world? 3. How can the world be fixed?
The world of Naturalism answer's these questions this way...
- The world, including humans, are the product of random natural acts that had no real purpose.
- Humans do not respect nature as they should.
- Ecology and conservation will save the world.
- Such a worldview generates situation ethics, existentialism, pragmatism and utopianism.
Nicodemus's worldview was shaped by his wealth, pride in being an aristocrat, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. Further his worldview was forged by a multitude of rules and regulations that distorted his view of religion and relationships.
Seventh-day Adventists answer these questions by noting the following:
- Humans are part of God's creation, designed to govern the world and enjoy a relationship with God. Gen. 1:27-8; 2:15.
- Adam and Eve sinned against God, all humans are sinners and pay the penalty of sin by death. Genesis 3.
- God who loves people redeems humans through the sacrificial death of Jesus. Gen. 3:15; Lk 19:10. Jesus will return soon, destroy them that destroy the earth and restore creation to its former perfect state. Isa. 65:17-25, by creating new heavens and a new earth. Rev. 21.
- An Adventist Christian worldview provides us with a moral framework, belief in creation rather than evolution, human dignity, belief in miracles, and the belief of everlasting life through Christ our Saviour.
The Christian basis for a worldview comes from a theological understanding of who God is, who man is and what is truth.
The phrase, 'born anew' or 'rebirth' is found all through the NT. In 1 Peter 1:3 we are born anew by God's great mercy. In 1 Peter 1:22-3 we are born anew not of perishable seed but of imperishable. James 1:18 says God changes us by the Word of truth. Paul to Titus in Titus 3:5 says we are washed by regeneration. In Romans 6:1-11 Paul writes that we die with Christ and rise to a new life, like a resurrection. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says "If any person is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold all things become new."
Kata Ragaso chief of the Maravo Lagoon saved 200 American airmen by organising teams of people to assist wounded airmen during the Second World War. In 1969 my family and I arrived at Mundu airport in the Western Solomons expecting the fly to Gizo and conduct meetings. However our plane had departed half an hour before we arrived. A customs official offered his home for the night. So with his gracious hospitality we enjoyed a good sleep that evening. Early the next morning however we were walking along the beach when a man came running out of the coconut trees calling "Pastor Currie, Pastor Currie!" It was Jimaru, brother to the late Kata Ragaso. A leader in the Adventist Church in Australia had written asking if the family would give Kata Ragaso's well used bible to the Church museum and Cooranbong. He asked if I could take the Bible to Australia. I agreed. While flying I opened the bible - there was a photograph in it of Kata's father and two other men - taken by a trader in 1900. What a contrast between the old warriors the warriors for Christ. But the bible fell open at 2 Corinthians 5:17 which was clearly underlined "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation...." Cannibals had become Christians by the power of the gospel. That is transformation! That is what John was writing about.
Years ago in this city I conducted an outreach to which a man attended who was involved in drugs. His marriage was breaking up because of drugs. He was embarrassed the first night because someone identified him as a 'druggie'. However five weeks later he turned up early and asked "Do you believe in dreams?" I assured him I did because I too dreamed. He asked if I believed in interpreting dreams. Again I told him the story of Daniel and a Kings dreams.
This man told me that he had a reoccurring dream where his children grew up to be far worse that he or his wife. He asked if it had meaning. I suggested that God may well be telling him that if he and his estranged wife continued to get highs on drugs that it could well be that his children would turn out worse that the parents. After a period of time he was converted, baptised and became a real witness to Christianity. He studied and completed a professional university course. Today he's a practicing Christian. That is transformation! That is the kind of change - dramatic - radical that God wants to see in us all.
Barclay, W. The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of John, Vol 1, 120-133, The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, 1997
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