Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, and called on the Lord by night. As he came into the presence of Jesus, he addressed Him as “Rabbi” understood a teacher with authority, continuing: “we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:1-2).
Questions encircle the event as it unfolded. Why at night? How had he come to a place of understanding as to address Jesus in the manner of “Rabbi”? And who were the “we” in his direct address to the Lord? Perhaps all the above point to the conclusion, that he was in a non-committal state. Appearing at night to avoid being seen, and in this limited place a true recognition of the evidence of Jesus one coming from God. His address beginning with “we” is curious as he [Nicodemus] appears to be the only one in the presence of the Lord. We being used to disguise his personal feeling or commitment? It’s often easier to say “We love you” to an individual than “I love you.” All the above considered it must be noted that Nicodemus’ conclusion was right, Jesus must have come from God for no man could do the miracles He was doing except God be with him.
Jesus responded with what Nicodemus needed by answering a question not asked, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of Heaven” (v.3). The Lord knew the heart of man (Matt. 9:4, John 2:25). He knew what Nicodemus needed in order to build on the conclusions already reached for understanding the beginning terms of the new covenant. It is here that the questioner follows with an absurdity. “Can one enter a second time into his mother’s womb?” (v.4). Had Jesus ever taught such an absurdity? No. Had anyone ever taught or seen such? No. Then why such a question? It is very likely this prominent citizen had heard John the baptizer preach (Matt. 3:5-6; Luke 3:3). Could it be that he was not ready to commit to following the Son of God? The second response of the Lord was emphatic and details the new birth (John 3:5-7). “Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” There are many today who say, “I don’t see what water has to do with it.” One may not see it, but Jesus said it and that settles it. There is man’s side— obedience and God’s side—redemption through Jesus Christ. In Acts 2 the full revelation of the Lord’s plan was seen when the Lord’s Church began on Pentecost.
The nature of the Spiritual Kingdom is revealed on this occasion to this learned man. The Spirit of God is “sovereign” [without bounds or controls - Ivor Powell] and moves as He wills by and through the word of God. “The hidden work of the Spirit in the human heart cannot be controlled or seen” [F. F. Bruce], but you can see the effects by and through changed lives who in turn change the world for the better [Guy N. Woods - The Gospel of John] (John 3:8). The Gospel will affect lives wherever it goes. This movement is not a statement of the miraculous, but rather the power of the Gospel upon honest and good hearts (Luke 8:15). The power of God cannot be restrained by man. The new birth is key to entry into the Kingdom, and the Kingdom of God has no earthly/national boundaries (John 18:36). This saving message is to be declared to all the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
The night caller, Nicodemus, later defended Jesus publicly (John 7:50), and brought myrrh and aloes to the tomb after the crucifixion (John 19:39). Have you committed all to Christ or are you following in the shadows?