Reading: John 3
Most every American knows who Simon Cowell is—former lead judge on American Idol, now X-Factor. I haven't yet seen the latter, but we know how American Idol works. Eager to be affirmed contestants audition in front of three judges, who then critique and, in Simon's case, usually insult (almost always deserved), them. The much feared Simon's affirmation is the rarest, and, if given, most prized. Imagine a contestant singing magnificently, then interrupting to explain he is not the least interested in their affirmation.
That may well parallel the situation we find in John 3. In order to really understand Jesus' dialogue with Nicodemus, we must ignore the chapter break. John 2 ends with the following:
23Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. 25He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. 3:1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. (John 2:23 - 3:1)
Jesus would not entrust Himself to men, for He knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man. And there was a man who came to Jesus offering his testimony about Jesus, and the testimony of the Jewish ruling council. Jesus had no interest in entrusting himself to Nicodemus; He did not need the testimony of the Jewish ruling council to affirm Him. Indeed, the Jewish ruling council would have done well to seek Jesus' affirmation of them by coming into the light and allowing Him, the Light, to expose them (John 3:19-21).
What was Nicodemus' motive in coming to Jesus? Since Jesus cuts him off after a brief introduction and seemingly changes the subject, his intentions are not immediately apparent. However, the fact that Jesus cut him off, and the immediately preceding comments by John (the narrator of this account), and the content of what Nicodemus said, together make clear Nicodemus' intent. What did Nicodemus say?
He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." (John 3:2)
Nicodemus came offering the testimony of the Jewish ruling council; testimony about Jesus. Nicodemus very likely expected Jesus to be gladdened by this turn of events, especially in light of John 2:18. But, Jesus had no interest in their affirmations and would not entrust himself to them. He had no need of their testimony, for He knew what was in man. (Note the continuity of thought: 25He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. 3:1Now there was a man )
Jesus knew exactly what was in Nicodemus and his accomplices back at the council. Jesus immediately interrupts with a statement that gets right at the problem with what was in them. They were of their father the devil (John 8:44) and needed to be born again (John 3:3). In fact, they could not even see the kingdom of God, much less be in charge of it as they supposed, unless they were born-again.
In effect, Nicodemus was coming on behalf of the council, attempting to barter a deal with Jesus. The logical direction of the conversation from Nicodemus' viewpoint would be something like this: “Now Jesus, we are willing to affirm publicly that you are indeed a man from God. We will give you ordination credentials and all! But there are a few things we need to discuss in order for this to work...” Then of course, he would lay down the boundaries which Jesus needed to keep. There is only one big problem: Jesus wasn't subject to the Jewish Ruling Council, they needed to be subject to Him. After all, according to John 3:31, Jesus is above all, which is to say He didn't need to submit Himself to them for their judgment, they needed to submit themselves to Him for His!
Nicodemus came affirming that what Jesus was doing was done through God, but what Nicodemus needed was Jesus to affirm that what Nicodemus was doing was done through God (John 3:21). Nicodemus didn't come for that and didn't leave with that. Nicodemus presumed that he and the Jewish leadership were in the position of judging Jesus, that He was in need of their affirmation... like some sort of contestant on American Idol needing the judges to “put him through to the next round.”
A big question for us, as we examine the Gospels, is whether or not we are coming to Christ to examine Him and judge Him as to whether or not He is from God. Fact is, we should not trust our judgment for it is faulty; faulty because of what is in us. We must be born-again. It is Christ that we must come to in order for our deeds to be exposed. It is Christ that we must gaze upon in order that we might receive eternal life (John 3:15-16).
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,