John 3:1-21 – A matter of life and death


John 3v1-21

Baptismal Service. 2nd October 1994.

[extracted from W.W. Wiersbe -“Be Alive” John 1-12]


Nicodemus was a religious leader – a pharisee – he was himself a teacher and lived by the strictest possible religious rules. He had heard about this new tracher who is alleged to come from God. In fact he had to acknowledge that Jesus was a prophet from God because the evidence [miraculous signs] were undeniable. Possibly he had seen Jesus before – heard him teach or even seen him perfom some of the miracles.

Whether he came at night because he was afraid of being seen or because he simply wanted some quite uninterrupted conversation we don’t know. Maybe he was expecting a stimulating theological discussion with this new teacher BUT what he encountered was an eye to eye meeting with God himself.

We are sure that Nicodemus was a man of strong moral character, he was a deeply religious man BUT he suffered from a servere case of Spiritual blindness – as do all human being by nature.

Jesus uses 4 illustrations to explain the basics of Salvation to Nicodemus:- Birth; Wind; a snake on a pole; light and Darkness.



Every person has experience physical birth – well that is fairly obvious- – you might not rememberit but you have.!!!  Physical birth is the experience of all and for most their experience remains on this purely physical level.

Thus when Jesus began to speak to Nicodemus about being born again he could not grasp it – he thought only in terms of physical birth “A 2nd time!!”

Here was this well educated, religious leader unable to understand this spiritual truth!

ILLUST: Same today – speak to people about Salvation and they either don’t want to know or they talk about Church traditions, activities and a second cousin on my mother’s side, who is a Vicar,.

But Jesus was patient with Nicodemus and he is patient with us – It is not entering a 2nd time into your mother’s womb BUT spiritual birth – being born again – being born from above by the power of God’s Spirit.

The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and when the sinner believes imparts the life of God.

No one can enter the Kingdom of God

unless he is born of water and the Spirit [v5]

There must be physical birth and spiritual birth in order to enetr God’s kingdom.

Jesus is NOT teaching that salvation is through water baptism. Baptism is connected more with death than birth – no amount of physical water can change a person spiritually. Salvation is through faith in Jesus NOT through a religious ritual.

Water baptism is part of obedience to Jesus but doesn’t add to salvation. Baptism is a picture of what has already taken place in the person’s life. They have repented, they have trusted Christ and they have been born of the Spirit. Baptism is simply a public declaration.

Children inherit the nature of the parents. So to with God’s children. Peter says we are “partakers of the divine nature”  We receive the life of God and he becomes our Father and he wants us to be like him.

Birth involves a future and believers are “born to a living hope”  When you are born into God’s family your sins are forgiven and forgotten and the future is bright with a living hope. Nothing in this world is secure. Political systems and financial institutions come and go – life in this world might not be easy or comfortable even for the Christian, sometimes esp. for the Christian BUT the Future is sure.


Jesus and Nicodemus were probably sitting outside in the evening breeze.

Jesus -“See those trees moving Nicodemus – can you see the wind?”  NO

The wind is powerful but invisible so too the Spirit of God.

In OT Ezekiel saw a vision of A valley of dry dead bones and the wind [spirit] blew on them and they came to life. Maybe Jesus and Nicodemus talked about that. Those dry bones were dead – you can’t get more dead than that – they needed God’s Spirit to impart life.

Paul in Ephesians 2 says

“We were dead in our sins … but God because of his

 immense mercy and incredible love, embraced us.

 He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ.

 He did all this on his own with no help from us!”

God is in the business of giving life – eternal, abundant and full life – to individual people. Thousands of babies are born each day. Try telling the parents “It’s just another one – what is the excitment?” Each one is special and precious! So too with each of God’s children.


The Jews in the desert – story of sin – a nation in rebellion against God {Numbers 3v14-18} and so God punished them. He sent poisionous snakes amongst them and the people started to die. But it is also a story of Grace because Moses prayed and God provided a remedy. A bronze snake on a pole where everyone could see it. Any one who was bitten could look at the snake and be healed.

A story of Faith – those who looked were healed.

Jesus was lifted up on the cross  – those who look to him will be saved from the snake bite of sin and death.

The solution to the snake problem was not killing the snakes- there were always more – it wasn’t making medicine, or pretending they weren’t there, orpassing anti-snake laws or even climbing the pole. JUST LOOK AND LIVE!!

The whole world has been bitten by sin – God says Just LOOK to Jesus by faith and receive LIFE that will never end.

The difference between Life and DEATH; between comdemnation by God  and salvation is faith. Faith in Jesus who could have come to destroy the world and judge it BUT rather came to save it. He became like the uplifted snake – those who look to him are saved.

For God so loved the World…. v16



We often tend to think that comdemnation is future – on the day of Judgement – but judgement is already passed – all stand condemned – we must come to God for pardon and mercy!

There are only two places to be – in the light or in the darkness – the darkness that refuses to come to Christ for salvation and the light where God lives and loves all who come to him by faith through Jesus Christ.

Nicodemus finally did come to the light – after the crucifixion we read:-

Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.


With Pilate’s permission he came and took the body away.

He was accompanied by Nicodemus…

Nicodemus came – millions have come since – many here have – Ralph and Shirley and Emma have – if you never have then know this God loves you and he longs to bring you form Darkness into the light of his love.

This is love; not that we loved God but that He loved us,

and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

…the Ftyhare has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,

God lives in him and he in God. And so we can know and

 rely on the love God has for us. [1 John 4]

Amazing grace – how sweet the sound – That saved a wretch like me;

I once was lost but now am found-  Was blind but now I see!


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