Late Night with Jesus: Can We Talk?

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night.” (John 3:1-2)

For the next week or so, we’ll spend a little time eavesdropping on a late night meeting between one of the most influential spiritual and political leaders in Israel and a controversial young rabbi named Jesus.

latenight_350Nicodemus was a teacher and a Pharisee and one of just 70 Very Important Guys on the Jewish ruling council known as the Sanhedrin. He was a big deal. But he didn’t let that stop him from being one of very few religious leaders to reach out to Jesus. He wanted to know what Jesus was all about.

Why come at night? Maybe he was scared of being seen with Jesus, a man despised by most of the other VIGs on the Sanhedrin. Or maybe all the crowds following Jesus made it impossible to get any serious time with him during the day. We don’t know. The point is that Nicodemus respected Jesus’ godly power enough to show up.

Think: How many of the Very Important People in our culture do you think would make the effort to have a conversation with Jesus late at night because they believed in his power? Why do you think so few VIGs seem to take Jesus seriously?

Pray: Ask God to help you understand Jesus’ mission on earth better as you listen to his conversation with Nicodemus over the next few days.

Do: Read ahead a little if you’d like to; check out the rest of John 3 to get ready for our study this week.

Late Night with Jesus: 2 + 2 = No Way

“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)

If you missed yesterday’s devo, we’re just diving into a late night conversation between a bigwig Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus and a popular, controversial young rabbi named Jesus.

latenight_350Nicodemus had reached a conclusion that so many of his colleagues on the Jewish ruling council refused to see: Jesus’ awesome, powerful miracles were undeniable evidence that Jesus’ power came from God.

Why couldn’t the other Important People put 2 and 2 together to come up with that answer? They had too much to lose if the math pointed to Jesus as God’s messenger on earth, let alone the Messiah. They could lose their power, status, and wealth if they let Jesus work as God’s Man outside of their system.

People still miss Jesus because they don’t think they can afford what it would cost them if his message is true.

Think: What are some of the things people are afraid of losing if they were to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died to save them from sin?

Pray: Thank God for Nicodemus’ willingness to recognize God’s power in Jesus’ miracles. Ask him to increase your confidence that Jesus’ power is evidence that he is God.

Do: Make a quick list off the top of your head of all of Jesus’ miracles you can think of in three minutes.

Late Night with Jesus: No Wasted Words

“He . . . said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. . . .’ In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ” (John 3:2-3)

“What?” I bet the people who hung out with Jesus said that to themselves all the time. “What is he talking about?”

latenight_350Nicodemus, this important religious and government leader, does Jesus the honor of coming to see him at night and beginning their conversation by openly acknowledging Jesus is from God.

Instead of saying, “Why, thank you, Nicodemus. It’s good to meet you. Have a seat. Can we get you a beverage?” Jesus said, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“What?” It’s not just that Jesus wasn’t a small-talker. He had this way of skipping over all the words between his listener and the point, including the ones that would help that person quickly understand what he was talking about. And, still, they always turned out to be the exact words that person—and we —needed to hear.

Think: Do the things Jesus said ever confuse you? Why do you think he didn’t always make his teaching more immediately understandable?

Pray: Ask God to help you understand what Jesus’ words mean, especially his words in John 3.

Do: Dare: Whatever text message you get next, reply with Jesus’ words in John 3:3: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

Late Night with Jesus: Gotta Get Born

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’ ” (John 3:5-6)

Jesus: If you want to enter the kingdom of God, you’ve got to be born again.

latenight_350Nicodemus: A grown man can’t really climb back into his mama’s womb.

Me: Ew.

Jesus, patiently: No, not a physical birth; you need a spiritual birth. You need to be born of water and the Spirit.

Jesus’ point, in part: You’re not physically alive if you were never born. (Duh.) And you’re not spiritually alive unless you’ve had a spiritual birth. And we’ll see that comes only through faith in Jesus. Nobody who has not trusted in Jesus can be a “spiritual person”—or meet God in his kingdom.

Think: If you are a Christian, when did you have your spiritual birth? When and why were you born again?

Pray: Thank God that Jesus made it possible for us to be born again so that we’ll be able to be with him for eternity.

Do: Make a plan to tell someone this week that you’ve been born again. Be ready to explain what that means.

Late Night with Jesu: Are You the Wind?

“You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:7-8)

Don’t just nod along with Jesus as you read these verses. Hit the pause button on your schedule long enough to allow the impact of what he told Nicodemus (and us) to fully land.

latenight_350Big Idea: You must be born again. You cannot be with God —ever—without being born again. There is no Plan B. When forever dawns, you’ll either be with God or apart from him (which is hell).

Big Idea 2: You can’t make yourself “born again” any more than you made yourself born the first time. The Holy Spirit “regenerates” us through our faith in Jesus. His work is as mysterious as the wind. We can’t see it; we can’t control it. It’s his work to re-birth us, not ours.

Think: How would you describe what it means to be born again in a few sentences?

Pray: Ask God again to help you understand Jesus’ hard words in John 3. Thank him for re-birthing you through the Spirit because of your faith in the good news of Jesus.

Do: Jesus said you must be born again to see God. Make a quick list of 3 other ways people hope will get them to heaven.

Late Night with Jesus: The Man from Heaven

“I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:12-15)

What’s the point of Jesus’ one-sided conversation with the bewildered Nicodemus? It’s all about who gets into heaven, who gets to be with God. The path is spiritual rebirth, but the destination is a very real place. Jesus had been there and was going back.

latenight_350Nicodemus would have heard (and probably taught) often of the story from Numbers 21:4-9. God sent poisonous snakes among the people as a punishment for their sin of speaking against him. To save them, God had Moses lift up a bronze snake on a pole. Those who looked at it lived.

What a beautiful prediction hides in Jesus words. He—the man from heaven, the Son of Man—would be lifted up on the cross. Those who look to him in faith will be given the gift of heaven, eternal life with God.

Think: How great would it be to meet someone who had actually been to heaven and could tell us all about it? Do you think of Jesus in that way?

Pray: Thank God for the clear words of Jesus that everyone who believes in him will live forever. If you’re a Christian, thank God for your home in heaven with him.

Do: If you haven’t yet, read Numbers 21:4-9.

Late Night with Jesus: Why Would God Let Us In?

“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.” (John 3:16)

Ever wonder how John 3:16 got to be the verse of choice for guys who like to hold up signs with Bible verses at sporting events? Mostly, it’s because it’s the whole mind-blowing good news of Jesus in a one-sentence nutshell.

latenight_350And the message was radical. Jesus had been explaining to Nicodemus that a spiritual rebirth was required to see God, that belief in the Son of Man was required to have eternal life. And then, in an instant, he swivels the whole conversation to focus on God’s motive for allowing such a marvelous, preposterous thing.

God loved the whole world.

More tomorrow.

Think: Have you looked at the world much? Does it surprise you that God loves us all, loved us enough to do something enormously costly to be with us?

Pray: Thank God that he loves you, that he loves the whole world.

Do: Make a giant sign with “John 3:16” on it. Buy a ticket to a major sporting event at a spot in the stands likely to get a lot of camera time. Hold it up! Or, you know, find your own way to pass on the message of this verse.