The law was our guardian or schoolmaster until Christ came. It protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. `
The perfect Law became our tutor to lead us to Christ, so we may be justified by faith. It was Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a leader of the Jews who came to Jesus by night. Like all religious leaders he was a man who was separated unto legal righteousness. He knew every nuance of the Law and at this time he was the main teacher in Israel.
No doubt he studied the Scriptures diligently thinking that in so doing he would earn eternal life and yet these very writings testified of Jesus in Whom abides eternal life. Doubtless he was a good man, a sincere man.. a man highly honoured among his peers, but Nicodemus was a only a man! – a man who was a sinner, a man incapable of keeping God’s Law – and therefore Nicodemus was a man who needed a saviour.
However righteous Nicodemus was in his own eyes or the eyes of his fellow Israelites, he fell short of God’s glory.. and even his righteousness was as filthy rags to the Lord, This great teacher of Israel was as guilty of breaking God’s Law, as everyone else. Had his need of forgiveness been revealed to him? Had he been present on the banks of the Jordan as John the Baptist screamed his condemnation of the proud Pharisees? Did he recognise that he too was a part of that brood of vipers, of whom John spoke?
Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform the signs You do unless God was with him, were his opening words, that blessed night. Nicodemus was one of whom Paul spoke when he said that before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law – shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed, But he was a man, searching for truth – and that night he found Truth incarnate.
Nicodemus was a man with the veil of the Law shrouding his heart – but the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ shone down on this needy man – that dark night. And later we discover him to be a secret disciple – at the tomb of his Lord.
You must be born again, were the staggering words Nicodemus heard that night – Words that must have echoed around his head and reverberated through his mind as he came to terms with the inner spiritual darkness, in which he himself was groping.
Imagine the turmoil he must have encountered as he discovered that unless he received the new birth, of which Christ spoke, he could not enter the kingdom of God. His forefathers has been waiting for this promised kingdom for centuries and recently the Baptist had been crying in the wilderness, repent-the kingdom of God is at hand – and now Nicodemus discovered he himself was excluded – unless he was born again.
The stark contrast between the Law- in which he trusted, and Grace- his only hope, started to register in the mind of Nicodemus – for the law, has its roots in the flesh. You must be born of water and of the Spirit: That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of God’s Spirit is spirit – Ye must be born again and believe in ME.
The reality that the Law, in which Nicodemus trusted was related to the flesh, must have been shattering to this religious-minded Pharisee – this esteemed teacher. Though the Law was God’s benchmark for the man that is born of the flesh it was an impossible standard to keep – but the new life in Christ, which is a gift of God’s grace to the one that believes, is a new work of God in man – a new creation in Christ Jesus.
Man must be born of the Holy Spirit – if he is to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual life of which Christ spoke is something entirely separate from the Law. The spiritual life is rooted in grace and truth, which comes to us from Jesus Christ.
The lessons that Nicodemus learnt on this night visit were of immense proportions. He had a glimpse into the heavenlies, yet did not even understand earthly truths. He discovered Christ was to be lifted up, like the serpent in the wilderness, so that all who look to Him will be saved and that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. He discovered that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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