Our text contains some of the basic teachings of the Christian faith. In this part of the Bible Jesus says, “You must be born again.” This startling statement is followed by a summary of the Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Words such as these fall on different ears and raise questions unique to the person. Let’s take a look at some of these different ears.
Nicodemus, the man in our text, had religious ears. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish Council. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. He opens the conversation by saying, “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.” Our Lord responds by saying, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
This term, born again, confused Nicodemus. What is its meaning? Certainly a person cannot be physically born again. Jesus explains, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” In other words, human beings must have a spiritual birth to enter God’s Kingdom. You don’t just have to be patched up, moralized as some would say. You need to be reborn.
Nicodemus knew the Law of God. He also knew God’s covenant with Israel Ð that one day a Messiah would come and restore them to the Kingdom of God. Now this Pharisee needed to hear the Gospel. He needed to learn that you are not saved by being a Jew, or by keeping the Law. He was being taught with the Gospel that our salvation comes through trusting Christ as the Savior and Lord of the world.
This is the evangelical message, not only for Nicodemus of 2,000 years ago, but also for all people in every age. The Law of God is important, but it can save no one. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith Ð and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God Ð not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
Ears that are expecting to win their salvation by the life they live need to be converted.
Secondly, there are the uninformed ears. There were many in Jesus’ day who had never heard the Gospel. The same is true in our day. How many people living on your street have never heard the Gospel? We, who have been raised in Christian families, take too much for granted in assuming that everyone knows about Jesus. If they have not been taught the truths of the Christian faith, they certainly must have picked it up some place. Not so. I recall a college professor coming to my study one day and asking me to give him a 15-minute summary of what Christianity is all about. He had not come from a Christian home. His family never attended church. While he heard his friends talk about Christianity, it was of little interest to him, so the message passed him by.
If you would like a shocker some evening, ask some of your neighbors to put in the proper chronological order main Biblical characters like Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul. Don’t be surprised if they begin with Moses, go on to Paul, and end up with Abraham. For millions of people there is complete ignorance.
This uninformed ear needs to hear the Gospel taught as simply as you would tell it to a child in his or her first year of Sunday school. They need to hear the song, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” They need to know that God wants to live in a personal relationship with them and sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross as a payment for their sins. He wants to forgive them their sins and bring them into His Kingdom forever. That’s the purpose of this sermon today.
Thirdly, there are ears that have been attracted to other voices. This brings to mind a person by the name of Zacchaeus. He was a Jewish man who left the teachings of his fathers to work for the Roman government as a tax collector. They offered him a good living. To Zacchaeus money was the important item in life, and so he became the prodigal. He was a turncoat. Well, he got this money. When Jesus met Zacchaeus in his hometown of Jericho, he was a hated rich man who had lost all respect by the townspeople. Jesus spent the night with this man, and turned his life around. He began to see the folly of his ways. Having squared his life with God, Zacchaeus began to experience what true happiness was all about. No longer were those “other voices” as attractive as they once were.
Are you one of those who left Christ for whatever reason it might have been? He is speaking to you now. The message is so simple: God loves you and wants you back home with Him. Haven’t you had enough of life without Him?
But then there is the Christian ear who hears this message brought to Nicodemus. It is the old story that never grows old. It brings us assurance and security. If you are old and shut-in and wonder if anyone cares anymore, Jesus says, “I love you. You are mine. I have bought you with a price.” If Satan is tempting you and making your life miserable, Jesus reminds us that God is our refuge and strength. Through Him we receive power to overcome even Satan.
The glorious Gospel has a message for all types of ears. Let our prayer be simple and to the point:
“Lord, wherever we are in our relationship with You, open our ears. For until you open them, we are deaf to the glorious message of God’s love in Christ.”