It was dark and a shadowy figure skittered and dashed through the alleyways, hoping that no one would see him. He was on a mission! One that could potentially cost him his life, if someone happened to see where he was going.
No, he wasn’t James Bond out to catch the bad guys. And he wasn’t a bad guy, either! In fact, he felt like he was a pretty good guy, because he liked to follow all the rules. If he were at your school, you would probably call him a teacher’s pet. Who do you think this guy was? Any guesses?
His name was Nicodemus, and he was part of a group of Jewish leaders called Pharisees who basically thought that if you wanted to go to heaven, you had better follow all of THEIR rules perfectly.
So what was Nicodemus doing out in the alleyways lurking around at night?
He had heard about JESUS, and he wanted to have a chat with him. That’s great and all, but why couldn’t he just go during the day, you might wonder?
Nicodemus didn’t want anyone to see where he was going! The other rule-followers, the Pharisees, HATED Jesus. They were angry that Jesus was going around saying that He had come to save everyone, because they wanted people to come to THEM for help! And if someone saw Nicodemus and told the other Pharisees that he was with Jesus, he would be in BIG trouble.
These Pharisees were also always yapping about how much they loved God— and yet when God sent His Son, they treated him REALLY BADLY. That’s called hypocrisy: saying one thing, and doing another! Kind of like when you tell people that the My Little Pony show is so lame and then you secretly binge watch it at night when no one’s looking. Or you catch your friend picking his nose and tell him he’s disgusting— but if you had a dollar for every time you’ve “dug for gold”, you’d be a billionaire.
But something deep inside Nicodemus told him that he just HAD to talk to Jesus, so he risked everything and went to see him at night. When he found Him, he said, “Hey Teacher, we know that you’ve done tons of miracles, and no one could do those things if he wasn’t a great teacher sent by God.”
And THAT was the problem. Nicodemus only saw Jesus as a “great teacher”, nothing more. And Jesus knew that, so he replied, “I’m going to tell you something really important, so pay attention: no one gets into heaven unless they are born again.”
“What? Born again? How can someone go back into his mom’s belly again and then be re-born?” Nicodemus said.
I’m guessing you all know by now that babies don’t come from storks! When you were in your mother’s belly, you were a tiny little squirt. Now you’re WAY too big to fit in there. Eeew! That just doesn’t work!
Jesus saw the look on Nicodemus’s face (it was probably like the faces you are all making right now), and started to explain what He meant.
“I’m not talking about physical birth, but spiritual birth,” He said. “I’m talking about something you can’t see, like the wind. God’s Spirit can change you, and you’ll know He’s there, just like you can hear the wind, but you can’t see it.”
Nicodemus was confused again. “Um…how can that even happen?”
Jesus said, “Aren’t you a Pharisee? You should already know this stuff.” Nicodemus just looked at him with the same face you guys make at school when the teacher says it’s time for the test, and you’re totally NOT ready.
Jesus went on to explain that salvation doesn’t have to do with DOING and SEEING, but rather with BELIEVING. He told him that people need to see things on earth (like butterflies and ants, for example) in order to understand things about God. He mentioned the time that Moses put a snake made of bronze up on a stick so that everyone who was sick could look at it and be saved.
What did people have to do to be saved and not die in the Moses story? They simply had to believe and look at the snake. What do people have to do to be saved and go to heaven? They have to look to Jesus and believe in Him!
That’s what Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus.
Ever heard of the verse John 3:16? That verse is part of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus! He said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) God sent Jesus to die to pay for our sins— for free! You don’t have to follow a list of rules, or try your hardest to be “a good person” so that you can go to heaven. Even if you did a ZILLION good deeds, it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for ONE lie, because that’s not how salvation works. Salvation is free!
So what happened to Nicodemus? Did he decide to stop following rules and start actually following God? The next time he is mentioned is in John 7, when the Pharisees were plotting and wanted to kill Jesus. Nicodemus kind of tried to defend Jesus, but he still didn’t say that he believed in Him, probably because if he did, the Pharisees would turn on him like those fear-smelling bug creatures turned on their evil leader in the Justice League movie.
The very LAST time Nicodemus is mentioned is in John 19:39, when Jesus had already died. He helped Joseph of Arimathea, a guy who secretly believed in Jesus, to bury Him. So it seems like he really did end up believing, but still kept it a secret.
What about you? Have you truly believed in Jesus and asked Him for his free gift of salvation? Or are you trying to follow the rules and be a good person so that you can go to heaven? Speak with me or another teacher after class so that we can show you how to be “born again”.
What about if you’ve already been born again? Maybe you’re like a butterfly, ready to fly, but still hiding in the chrysalis, because you don’t want anyone to know you follow Jesus. Don’t be like Nicodemus! Jesus gave you new life, and that’s something worth CELEBRATING and SHARING with others!Share this post: