INTRODUCTION: At the beginning of this quarter I promised you that
we would focus on a story of healing each week to illustrate the
point of the lesson. This week we are going to look at an unusual
"healing:" the healing of the "religious" mind focussed on the
wrong things. Let's jump in!
I. THE MIND IN NEED OF HEALING.
A. Turn with me to John 2:23-25. Read.
What do you think
Jesus is doing in v.23? (Probably healing.)
1. What was the
result of Jesus performing these signs?
("Many ... believed.")
B. Is there a problem with the belief of these
does v.24 mean when it says "Jesus would not trust Himself to
1. The Greek
word translated "believed" in v.23 is
"pisteuo." The Greek word translated "entrust" in v.24
is "pisteuo." So look at this: the people "believed" in
Jesus, but He did not "believe" in them!
2. Let's write
these key phrases on the blackboard: "many
... believed in His name;" "Not entrust Himself to
them;" and, "He knew what was in a man."
a. What is the Bible trying to tell us in these
b. What is the problem here?
c. Why doesn't Jesus trust these people?
d. How can they believe in Jesus, but He not believe
in them? (Something was wrong with their belief.
Their minds needed to be "healed." The problem was
(and is) that we are not trustworthy because we
have a hard time telling what is in us. We may
have a superficial religious belief and not realize
C. Verse 25 hands us another difficult statement.
When v. 25
says that Jesus did not need "man's testimony about man," what
"man" are we talking about? (Apparently the people thought
that Jesus was a remarkable "man." Our lesson title says that
Jesus is the "Great Connector." Apparently these people did
not "connect" Jesus with being God or with His Father.)
D. So two major problems with these people
are revealed in
these three verses: first, that they did not know their own
hearts (minds) very well; and, second, they did not know truly
understand the nature of Jesus.
E. Is it fair to just let us hang here?
To tell us what the
problem is with this kind of superficial faith without telling
us how to "heal" it? To just end the chapter here?
1. Or is it possible
that our next story has something to
do with an answer to this problem?
A. Read John 3:1-2. Put yourself in Nicodemus'
would you go see Jesus? What is he looking for? What is he
hoping for? (At a minimum he is curious. At a maximum I would
bet he wonders if this is the Messiah.)
1. Perhaps the
first step to putting ourselves in
Nicodemus' place is to understand his background and what
kind of man he was. What do you know about him? (Years
ago I did some research on Nicodemus and found that the
"House of Nicodemus" was one of the premier families of
the day. They were rich traders. Whether this Nicodemus
was from that family is not certain, but I imagine
probable because John 19:39 reports that Nicodemus
supplied 75 pounds of an embalming compound for Jesus.
This would have been expensive. According to Barclay's,
The Gospel of John, (p.120) only a wealthy man could have
2. What does it mean that Nicodemus was a member of the
Ruling Council? (F.F. Bruce in his NIV Commentary
(p.1238) suggests that Nicodemus was a member of the
Sanhedrin which was the legislative and judicial body for
3. What does
it mean to be a Pharisee? (A Pharisee
was a religious leader who believed the Bible. I read
several commentaries and they were all generally
favorable about the Pharisees in the sense that they took
their obligations to God seriously. Barclay's commentary
(cited above) says (p.120) "they were the best people in
the whole country.")
B. With this background about a rich and prominent
what we are told in v.1, tell me what you think is going
through Nicodemus' mind as he prepares to meet with Jesus? (He
probably thought he was meeting an equal or an inferior. He
was "checking out" Jesus, so he clearly thought he was an
evaluator, even if Jesus did turn out to be someone important.)
1. Why did Nicodemus
come at night to see Jesus? What
does this tell us about the attitude of Nicodemus? (It
appears he did not want to be seen with Jesus.)
2. I see another
"clue" about the attitude of Nicodemus
in v.2 were he says, "we know you are a teacher..." Who
is this "we" he is talking about? (He thinks he is
speaking for the religious leaders; perhaps the Pharisees
or the Sanhedrin! If that is true he must have (at
least) viewed himself as a leader of the Pharisees. He
was speaking for other religious leaders.)
3. What does
the fact that Nicodemus even came to see
Jesus tell us about Nicodemus? (That he was an
intellectual adventurer: he was inquisitive and wanted to
learn. His spirit of adventure was limited, though,
because he came at night.)
C. Consider Nicodemus' opening statement to
Jesus in v.2. Do
you find it to be complimentary or insulting?
1. Do you think
that Nicodemus thought it was a
compliment? (Yes. From our discussion of his background,
I have no doubt he thought it was a compliment. He was
trying to start out on the "right foot" with Jesus.)
2. From Jesus'
point of view was this a compliment? (No.
Nicodemus does not admit Jesus is the Messiah, he simply
admits that He is a teacher. Further, this compliment
assumes that Nicodemus is the superior, the authority! He
is "granting" that Jesus came from God as if he were the
one to judge.)
D. Is Nicodemus like the people we looked at
in John 2:23-25?
(He seems exactly like them. He thought Jesus was a miracle
working man. His mind needed to be "healed" because he did
not see Jesus as the "Great Connector." Nicodemus puts a face
on the people in John 2:23-25.)
III. THE GREAT CONNECTOR
A. Read John 3:3. The Bible says, "In reply...."
How can this
statement about being born again be in reply to what Nicodemus
just said about Jesus' great works?
1. Had Nicodemus
said anything about "seeing" the kingdom
of God? (Verse 2 is just Nicodemus way of trying to
"warm" Jesus up by complimenting Him. By putting the best
"spin" on what he knows about Jesus. When you first see
someone that you do not know you talk about the weather
and (if you are an extrovert) throw in a few
2. So Nicodemus
is just tossing around and few
superficial comments and Jesus drills him with a very
serious and difficult statement. Does this have anything
to do with what we just discussed in John 2:25 that Jesus
knows what is "in a man?" (Jesus knows that Nicodemus did
not come to compliment Him, he came for some deeper
reason, he has a deeper need.)
3. What were
the Pharisees really looking for? What was
the Jews' highest priority? What did we discuss that
Nicodemus was looking for at the very highest level of
his imagination? (To have the Messiah come who would
throw off the Roman yoke. See Nelson's Bible Dictionary
under "Messiah" for more detail.)
4. Do we agree
that Nicodemus came (at least in part) to
find out if Jesus was the Messiah? (John 7:31-32 reports
that the "crowd" thought that Jesus could be the Christ
and the Pharisees heard these rumors.)
5. When Jesus
referred to "see[ing] the kingdom of God,"
in v. 3, what did He mean?
a. What do you think Nicodemus thought He meant? (At
this point Jesus and Nicodemus were talking at two
different levels. Nicodemus was talking at a
physical/external/superficial level about a Messiah
who would overthrow the Romans and usher in the
"kingdom of God." Jesus was talking at an
internal/spiritual level about knowing God. Getting
beyond that superficial belief that we discussed
the people had in John 2: 23-25.)
6. In that context,
why did Jesus say that Nicodemus
would see the kingdom of God only if he were "born
again?" (His mind need to be "healed.")
a. Do you think Nicodemus began to see that they
were talking about two different things?
b. If they were talking about two completely
different things, how is Jesus the "Great
Connector" (to quote the lesson title)?
c. If Jesus and Nicodemus are talking to each other
but not understanding each other how is "the
connection" made? (Jesus wanted to shock Nicodemus
into paying attention. He wanted to change
Nicodemus' point of view, heal his thinking.
Nicodemus was talking about the great things that
Jesus had done which was exactly what the Jews were
looking for in a Messiah: a powerful miracle
worker/warrior leader. Jesus wanted to show
Nicodemus that he was on the wrong track to focus
on the miracles and an earthly kingdom.)
B. Read John 3:4. Did Jesus have Nicodemus
Was the "superior" Nicodemus mentally stuttering here? (Yes.
He is completely confounded.)
C. Let's read Jesus' explanation: John 3:5-8.
What does Jesus
mean when He says we must be born of "water and the spirit?"
1. What is meant
by "flesh gives birth to flesh ...
Spirit gives birth to spirit?" (Write "water" on the left
and "Spirit" on the right side of the blackboard. Under
water write "flesh" and under Spirit write "spirit.")
(What Jesus means
here is the subject of much
discussion and debate. Let me suggest to you that when
Jesus refers to "water" He primarily means a physical
birth (which seems to answer Nicodemus' question about
going into the womb a second time). So Jesus is setting
up this parallel dichotomy. One the one side we have the
physical side of this and on the other side we have the
spiritual side of this.)
D. Is the physical side of this representative
Nicodemus was looking for when he came to see Jesus? Is Jesus
trying to tell Nicodemus he is looking at this from the wrong
angle? That the kingdom of God is spiritual and not physical?
1. Would Nicodemus
have any inkling that he needed help
on the spiritual side of things? (I doubt it. Being a
leader of the Pharisees, he was likely to think that his
spiritual life was certainly in order.)
E. If the kingdom of God is spiritual and not
physical, how is
Jesus the "great connector?" (He is the "physical" link for a
spiritual issue. His physical death gave us spiritual life.)
F. Let's move down a few verses. Read vv. 13-15.
remember the story in Numbers 21:9? Tell me about it.
G. Did the people in Numbers 21:9 have a physical
(They had both. They started out complaining about God. This
was a serious spiritual problem. A mental attitude that
needed to be "healed." When the snakes bit them the problem
also became a physical problem.)
H. Did the people of Numbers 21:9 have a physical
solution? (They had a physical healing. But it came only from
looking at the snake, and that should have caused a spiritual
healing. If you look carefully at the Numbers 12 story, the
people's problem was that after all God had done for them they
still did not trust Him. God now taught them that the mere
look at the snake (as He had commanded) could heal them.)
I. How is Jesus like the snake? (Jesus was
lifted up on the
cross as the snake was lifted up on the pole. Both "liftings"
gave life to the people who looked and believed. Jesus death
shows more than anything that we can "trust" Jesus.)
J. The question is, can He trust us? Consider
problem of the people who Jesus did not trust in John 3:23-24.
Was Nicodemus like them? (Yes. He began by looking for the
miracles. The Messiah that would triumph in power. As a
personally powerful leader Nicodemus could trust power.)
1. Was Nicodemus
being "born again" by this conversation
with Jesus? (Yes. Jesus was hammering home just a hard as
possible that He was to save His people by giving Himself
up. It was a spiritual victory, not a military victory.
He won by giving up Himself just as surely as the people
were saved by looking at the snake.)
2. Is the same
true for us? Do our minds need to be
healed if we depend in any way on the
superficial/physical/material side of things?
3. How can we
be healed? (To be "born again," to put
aside and give up our trust in our own religious "status"
or social "status," and trust only in Christ being
"lifted up" to save us.)
K. How about you friend? Do you need to be born again? Are
you a religious leader like Nicodemus who is focussed on the
physical side of life? Do you trust in your great knowledge
of religion or your "status" in the church? Do you truly
trust God whatever happens and believe that "just a look" will
1. Read in closing John 3:14-17.
IV. NEXT WEEK: ETERNAL RESTORATION. Study!