You can click HERE to read the passage.
As I pondered this passage I was struck by the ease in which Jesus carried on a gospel conversation with Nicodemus. Here are a few things that I see in this passage that helped me think about how to have similar conversations with people that I meet.
Be available to people. Take advantage of divine appointments (v.2) – This conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus was not planned. There is not even any indication that they had ever met before. And it happened at night, presumably after a long day when people generally were settling in for rest. Yet Jesus was available. He did not make Nick feel like he was interfering with His schedule. Sometimes you just never know. You never know when an opportunity will present itself. You never know when you will have a chance to be a gospel witness. Now is the time to get ready. Now is the time to pray that God will bring people across your path that need you to tell them about Jesus. You can’t have gospel conversations unless you take advantage of the opportunities that God gives you.
Use language that creates curiosity and provokes questions (v.3) – Jesus was very purposeful with what he said. He did not speak with worn out religious cliches. He used language that made people curious about what He was saying and got them involved in the conversation. Notice verses 4 and 9. Nicodemus is engaged. He is asking questions. He wants to know more. Many Christians shut down gospel conversations instead of opening them up because they say things that sound lame and uninviting. We need to work hard at making sure that our conversation is “always gracious, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). You can usually tell if a person is interested in hearing what you have to say if they are asking questions. Give them a reason to carry on a conversation by making it sound interesting.
Challenge common assumptions. Make people think (vs. 5-13) – The common assumption for Nicodemus was that being a keeper of the Law would grant you access into the kingdom of God. Imagine his surprise when Jesus said that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” 2000+ years later people are still making the same assumption – that if they are just good enough, if they keep God’s commandments, then God will let them into heaven. As gospel bearers we need to help people think and challenge them to consider that perhaps the assumptions they have made all their lives are faulty. Asking good penetrating questions is a great way to do this. For instance, in this case, “how good is good enough to get you into heaven.” Or perhaps “Is it reasonable to assume that a holy God would allow sin into heaven.”. Asking questions also demonstrates that we are interested in what they think and helps us to frame the conversation in a way that is particularly suited to the individual.
Use stories and object lessons to help clarify (v. 14) – I’m sure that what Jesus was sharing was pretty incredulous to Nicodemus. To help make things a bit clearer Jesus appealed to a story in the Older Testament, one that Nick would have been very familiar with (see Numbers 21:4-9). Stories, illustrations, and object lessons are great ways to help clarify things that are difficult to understand. Using the familiar to explain the unfamiliar is something that good communicators work hard at doing. It is worth working hard to become good at sharing the gospel since the gospel is the greatest message anyone could ever hope to hear.
Offer people faith, hope, and love (vs.16-21) – Jesus offers Nicodemus all 3 of these as he winds down the conversation. The idea that God was a loving God would probably not have been the first thing that came to Nick’s mind – just as it is a new idea to people today who think of God more as judge and rule keeper. People need to know that God loves them because so many people have never experienced what real love is. People need to know that there is hope because so many people are living lives of hopelessness and despair. And people need something (or rather Someone) to believe in that will not disappoint because so many people have put their faith in people or jobs, or money and have been disappointed again and again. The gospel is great news because it offers faith, hope, and love.
“Father, would You make me aware of the opportunities that you put right in front of me. And would You teach me by Your Spirit to speak in ways that will make people want to know more about who You are and what you have done through Christ at the cross.”
Next Week’s Passage: John 3:22-35