Imagine with me for a moment watching someone blow this huge bubble, this amazingly big bubble from chewing gum. Someone walks up with a three-pronged fork and plunges the fork into the bubble. The bubble bursts all over. Pieces everywhere. This massive bubble has been busted. This image is kind of like what happened to Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus, per John 3:2 and John 3:10, was a leader in Israel, a Pharisee, and a famous teacher. He probably was one of the most moral people on planet earth at the time and a worshiper of the One true God. He followed all the commands of God and all the traditions of the Jewish people. Yet, something was missing. He saw the signs of Jesus in Jerusalem, and he inquired of Jesus at night (John 3:1-2). Jesus ignored Nicodemus' kind greeting, as he affirms Jesus as a fellow rabbi. Jesus gets his three-pronged fork out and busts the bubble that Nicodemus had spent years blowing (Nicodemus' own self righteousness). He busted Nicodemus' worldview and self-righteousness bubble. He told Nicodemus in verse 3, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus was undone. His whole system of belief was shattered by one statement from Jesus. Jesus telling Nicodemus that “he had to be born again (in the original language means from above)” was telling Nicodemus he could do nothing in his own works or efforts to merit entrance into God’s kingdom. Nicodemus was helpless before a holy God, and his best efforts were rags. Nicodemus had to have something happen to him. He had to be born from above. The Spirit of God had to give him a spiritual heartbeat that loved and trusted in God’s Son for forgiveness.
Jesus makes this clear in verses 14-15, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus used a well-known story from Numbers 21, which Nicodemus would have known, to convey what happens to someone when they are born again. Just as the people of Israel during their wilderness wanderings were bitten by fiery serpents as judgment for their rebellion against God, we are under God’s wrath for our rebellion against God. We are doomed in our sin. We are sinners and therefore sin. Yet in the story from Numbers 21, which Jesus referenced in verse 14, God gives a bronze serpent so that all who looked upon it in faith were healed. Jesus followed that up in verse 15 to this Pharisee of Pharisees, Nicodemus, that all who look to Jesus and His sacrifice in faith the same way as the Israelite people did to the bronze serpent will be saved from the penalty of their rebellion. Those who look to the perfect and sinless Lord Jesus' crucifixion as their sin payment are free from God’s wrath and given eternal life. Those who are born of the Spirit of God as they hear the Gospel of Jesus will look to Jesus’ sacrifice in faith alone to reconcile them to God and procure their forgiveness before God. They will look to Jesus because their spiritual eyes are open by the power of the Holy Spirit, and they see His sacrifice as their only hope.
Nicodemus needed to look to Jesus in faith. We need to look to Jesus in faith. Now, this is not just good news for the religious, but for the libertarian as well. If you go ahead in the Gospel of John to chapter 4, we meet a Samaritan woman, and she is the opposite of Nicodemus. She is immoral, married 5 times, living with a man, and full of sin. Yet, Jesus tells her the same basic thing. He calls the legalistic and the libertarian both to look to Him in faith and be forgiven. Both needed to be born again. Has your bubble been busted? What are you trusting in to enter the kingdom of God? Your works? Per Jesus, it is not enough… The only answer that will pass is: the merit of the Lord Jesus alone.