Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 13: A Learned Law Professor Seeks Jesus By Night

Sidebar p. 47: As we study, keep in mind that this cleansing of the temple was much more than an "incident." It would prove to be a major contributing factor to Jesus' ultimate death.

Why do you think Nicodemus would be secretive about his desire to speak with Jesus?

It might not have been PC to talk to Jesus. He may have been intrigued and wanted to know more, but he didn't know how his peers would feel about it.

Another interesting sidebar:
Whether then or now, men often have a difficult time coming to Jesus openly. Sometimes they will only come, in a sense, "by night," under cover of darkness. For a grown man, successful in his vocation, to come to Jesus, he will be admitting that all of his prior years on the planet have been lived in error.

VERY interesting and insightful!

Nicodemus's confusion when Jesus says he must be "born again" takes on new significance when we see it from a Hebrew perspective. The phrase "born again" was a very common Jewish idiom. There were at least six different avenues through which a person could be "born again":
1. When a Gentile converts to Judaism (and becomes a proselyte).
(I'm not sure what this word means, so I'll look it up here in a minute!)
2. When a man become king (not of the tribe of Judah or house of David).
3. When a male is circumcised at age thirteen (Nicodemus was was past that age).
4. Between ages eighteen and about twenty-five, a Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman and it was said of him: "he has been born again."
5. When a man becomes a rabbi around age thirty. (See 3:1, as a "spiritual ruler," Nicodemus was already a rabbi.)
6. When he became a leading teacher in a rabbinical school around age fifty.

Nicodemus asks, "How can a man be born again when he is ____________?"

This tells us that he has exhausted every avenue in his understanding through which this might be possible. Examine the list again. Can you picture this learned rabbi mentally checking off each of these as Jesus spoke. Finally he comes to the end, realizing that he has qualified at every level under Jewish definition and that the only remaining option is almost too ridiculous to even mention. Surely Jesus could not possibly mean the absurd notion of reentering his mother's womb, could He?

sidebar p. 48:
Nicodemus is mentioned in rabbinic writings. His Hebrew name was actually Nakdimon Ben Bonai. He was one of the wealthiest men in Jerusalem and sometime after he became a believer in Jesus, he somehow lost his wealth. After that, he made a living as a well digger in Jerusalem.

Look at the following verses, and write in your own words four things John says to them in response:

Verse 27: nothing
can be received by people except through heaven

Verse 28: you yourselves know that I said that I am not the Christ, but am sent before him.

Verse 30: he will become bigger, and I will become smaller

Verse 34: God sent him and he speaks words of God.

Sidebar p. 49: John Wesley said that a leader is not fond of his power. Such is the case with John. He knows his role and realizes that he must fade into the background, though his followers find this difficult to accept. John has great humility, something seldom seen in our present-day leadership, spiritual or otherwise. It has become the forgotten virtue, yet we will observe this great emphasis on humility throughout the Gospels. (I love the reference to John Wesley, founder of Methodism...and this isn't a Methodist-produced study! :) )

Why was John in prison? Herod Antipas had a brother named Herod Phillip. He divorced his wife, Herodius, and Herod Antipas married her. Leviticus 20:20 says that a man may not marry his brother's wife while he is still alive. John, not known for his reluctance to speak the truth, confronts Herod about his sin with all the subtlety of a meat cleaver and is promptly thrown in jail for his trouble.

OK, looked up meaning of proselyte. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, it occurs only in the New Testament where it signifies a convert to the Jewish religion.