Most of the statements Jesus made about Himself He made during conversations with people, and John 3:16 is no different. In a conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus revealed the very reason He was in the world, and His interaction with the religious teacher is recorded in one of the best-known verses in the world.
When Nicodemus spoke with Jesus, he was looking for something more. He had status and success, but they weren’t enough for him. Religion won’t satisfy our souls. Family won’t satisfy our souls. Status won’t satisfy that longing for something more. Only one thing can satisfy—the Bread of Life, the Water we thirst for.
But Nicodemus didn’t come to Jesus in the open; he came to meet Him at night. Some people criticized him for that, but Jesus never did. If Nicodemus had come by day, he would have lost his place as a high-ranking Pharisee. So he initiated the conversation in secret, and three years later on the day Jesus died, he was still a secret disciple of Jesus. But that was the day he came out of hiding and declared Jesus publicly.
Jesus meets us where we are. He meets us in our darkest place.
In meeting Jesus at night, Nicodemus took a step of faith. His fear wasn’t the opposite of faith. The greatest leaps of faith are terrifying, and Nicodemus leapt in spite of his fear. Faith is saying you’ll meet with Jesus even in your darkest place.
Jesus will give you a new birth no matter how old you are.
Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he was born again, he wouldn’t see the kingdom of God. If we judge the things happening in our lives by what we see, the reality is dismal. But there’s a spiritual side that we can only see when we’ve been born again and begin to think and act differently. A baby has to learn to walk and talk in his new world. So must we in the spiritual world.
The Israelites had a hard time seeing God’s kingdom in the wilderness because of their unbelief. They complained, believing they were better off back in Egypt. So God sent a plague of snakes, and the snakes killed a whole generation of people meant to go to the Promised Land. Moses went to God, who commanded him to lift up a pole with a bronze snake on it for all to see. When people looked at the pole, they wouldn’t die from their snake bites.
Hundreds of years later, Jesus was also lifted up on a pole for all to see. Any who looked at Him and believed were saved from spiritual death. Jesus took the old nature, the serpent nature we are all afflicted with, and lifted it up on the cross. So whatever we struggle with, Jesus has already lifted it up on the cross. Whatever our past is, Jesus has already lifted it up on the cross, and anyone who believes in Him will live and not die.
Jesus will save you, not condemn, when you believe in Him.
The ministry of Jesus, the ministry of the church, is reconciling the world to God. That’s why it’s so important we have the kind of conversations Jesus had, so we draw people in and build bridges, not walls—so they can be reconciled to God.
Watch the full sermon here.