Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

3rd Sunday After Denaho (Baptism of Jesus Christ)

Sermon / Homily on St. John 3:1-21

Jesus: The Divine Teacher - John 3:1-21

by Alan Carr


This great chapter gives us a portrait of Jesus as the Divine Teacher. We must remember that when Jesus came to this earth, He came to teach men how to flee darkness and come to the light. He came to teach men how to flee death and to enter into life. In this chapter, we find Jesus carrying out this ministry as a teacher. Here, He gets the opportunity to teach a teacher, and He does just that!

However, Jesus also uses this passage to instruct us also. As we take the time to look at these verses this morning, there may be some among us who are in the same shape Nicodemus was. Here was a man who was at the pinnacle of success. He had it all. He was a respected man, he had money, power, position and all the things that are considered the trappings of a successful life. Yet, he lacked that one thing that would guarantee him a pleasant eternity experience. He lacked a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This great lack in the life of Nicodemus becomes the topic of Christ's lesson. In these verses, Jesus, The Divine Teacher explains salvation to Nicodemus and in the process, He explains it for us as well.

For the next few minutes, let's join Jesus, The Divine Teacher in His classroom. As we do, all I ask is that you allow the Lord to speak to your heart and then do what He calls you to do. If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you will at least here how to do just that today. Nobody ever explained a truth like Jesus, let's listen in as He teaches Nicodemus the truth about salvation.


A. V. 1 The Character Of Nicodemus -

1. He Was A Ruler - Probably a member of the Sanhedrin, John 7:51. As such, he was among the most powerful of men in that day. He was a judge, much like a member of the Supreme Court.

2. He Was Religious - He was called a Pharisee. Therefore, he

adhered to the strictest of religious and ethical standards. (Ill. Not all Pharisees were hypocrites. Some actually did their best to live before the Lord in true holiness. It appears that Nicodemus was of this caliber.)

3. He Was Real - His approach to Jesus indicates that He was sincere in his search for the truth. Here was a man who wanted to find true peace for his soul. He probably came by night, not out of fear, but so that he could have an uninterrupted conversation with Jesus.

(Ill. I do not mind someone who is asking questions when they are sincere and are searching for the truth. Neither does the Lord!)

B. V. 2 The Compliment From Nicodemus -

1. He Addressed Jesus With Respect - Nicodemus calls Jesus "Rabbi." He refers to Him as a teacher, and appears to hold Jesus in high regard.

2. He Addresses Jesus With A Realization - It appears that Nicodemus at least understood that Jesus had been sent from God to the world. Nicodemus, it seems, has at least a vague understanding of just who Jesus really is.

3. He Addresses Jesus With Human Reasoning - Nicodemus is giving Christ honor and is displaying respect for the power of Christ that he has seen, (Ill. The miracles). However, He stops too short in his estimation of just who Jesus really is. To Nicodemus, Jesus is nothing more than a teacher, or some prophet whom God has sent.

(Ill. This is always the problem with religion! It stops short in its approach to Jesus Christ. Jesus is necessary, but you have to add baptism, or confirmation, or church membership, or communion, any of a thousand other things. Faith in Jesus is never enough a religious system. If your system of belief stops short of receiving Jesus Christ as the sole means of salvation, then you have no salvation! It is Jesus, plus nothing, minus nothing. It is Jesus and Jesus alone that saves the soul from sin, John 4:6; Eph. 2:8-9) Where is your faith today?)

(Ill. "If the Central Intelligence Agency wanted you to be an agent behind the bamboo curtain in China, you would be trained to talk, ask, look, and think Chinese. You would go to school and learn the Chinese language so that you could speak it fluently without a trace of an accent. After studying the mores of China and watching films of Chinese physical characteristics, you could duplicate their mannerisms. Perhaps you would undergo plastic surgery and have your face changed so that you would look Chinese. Then you could enter Communist China and be welcomed as one of them.

"You would then do everything in the Chinese manner. No difference would be noticeable. As far as anyone in China is concerned, you are Chinese. But would you be Chinese? No, not if you did not have Chinese parents. Nothing you can do will change your race.

"Actually, it's the same way spiritually. You may talk and dress like a Christian. You may join Christian organizations and sing Christians songs, and in all ways act like a Christian. However, none of these things will make you a Christian. You were born sinful and you have the nature of a sinful race. Nothing you can do outwardly can change this fact. Just as you would have to have been born of Chinese parents to be Chinese, so you need a new birth spiritually to be a Christian."

C. V. 3 The Challenge From Jesus - Jesus ignores the compliments and the pious platitudes and addresses the need of Nicodemus's heart. Jesus tells Nicodemus that his religion isn't sufficient to save his soul. He tells Nicodemus that he must experience the "New Birth."

(Ill. Being the Divine Teacher, Jesus used a common illustration to clarify His thought. Birth is a universal experience. Everyone has been through it. After all, that's how we all got here. However, there is something different about this birth to which Jesus refers

1. The Nature Of The New Birth -. The word "again" means "from a higher place." It refers to things which come from God alone. That is the nature of the new birth. Man cannot accomplish it. It is a work of God and of none other!

2. The Necessity Of The New Birth - the word "except" is an imperative. It literally means that a person has no other choices in the realm of salvation. You either come God's way or you do not experience His salvation. In other words, it's Jesus or nothing! (Acts 4:12).

D. V. 4 The Confusion Of Nicodemus - Nicodemus, like so many others, confused the things of God with those of the flesh. He thought that Jesus was referring to a return to his mother's womb. A thing that would be an absolute impossibility.

(Ill. There are many around who do not understand the plan of salvation. When someone tries to think about it in human terms, it makes absolutely no sense at all. It is a thing that is spiritually discerned and unless the Spirit of God awakens the mind to the truth of God's plan, then there can be no understanding and, ultimately, no salvation. That is why Jesus stresses the need for the Father to draw men to the truth - John 6:44; John 6:65; Eph. 2:1.)

E. V. 5-13 The Clarification Of Jesus - In an effort to clear things up for this seeking man, Jesus proceeds to explain the manner of this "new birth".

1. V. 5 The Instruments Of The New Birth

a. Born Of Water - There is some confusion among Bible readers as to what the water here refers to.

1. Baptism - Impossible, for this would add works to grace.

2. The Natural Birth - This is a possibility. However, if a man had never been born, then he would not need salvation in the first place. It makes it an almost moot point.

3. The Word Of God - This, to me, is the best answer. It is the Word of God that regenerates and quickens the heart of the sinner. It is the Word of God that makes him acutely aware of His need for Christ. It is the Word of God that brings about the conviction of sin and the possibility of faith, Rom. 10:17; (Ill. That is why Bible centered, Gospel preaching is so necessary - 1 Cor. 1:21.)

b. Born Of The Spirit - This refers to the second stage of salvation. After conviction comes and the heart of the sinner is quickened by the Spirit of the Lord, the sinner has a decision to make. When the sinner turns to Jesus for salvation, the Spirit of God baptizes the sinner into the body of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:13, and gives him the everlasting life of God.

2. V. 6-7 The Imperative Of The New Birth - Verse 6 makes it clear that there is a difference in what is produces by the action of the new birth. When a sinner is redeemed, he literally becomes a "New Creation" in the Lord Jesus, 2 Cor. 5:17. It is this "New Creature" that is fitted for Heaven. The redeemed life has been readied for glory, while the natural man is suited only for this world.

(Ill. When Jesus comes in, He makes all the difference in a life. The redeemed sinner is forever changed by the power of the Almighty. Notice this truth illustrated in the following story. A medical missionary was leaving by ship for a foreign field. The famous Andrew Bonar of Scotland came to the pier to bid farewell to his friend, only to discover that the doctor was to be accompanied by his sister. Turning to her, he said, "My dear, I don't believe I've ever had the privilege of making your acquaintance. I'm pleased that you are going as your brother's assistant, and I'd like to remember you in my prayers. What is your first name?" "Christine," was the reply. "I like that!" said the aged servant of the Lord, "for you have Christ in your name. I trust you also have Him in your heart!" The woman looked away and was silent for a moment. Before she could think of an answer, the last call to board the ocean liner was given. Convicted by Bonar's words, she began to think about her relationship to the Lord. Although she went to church regularly, she suddenly realized that she was not truly saved and had never actually become a "new creature" in Christ. That night she knelt and asked the Savior to pardon her sins and make her His child. Much later an article appeared in the Moody Monthly relating this incident. It concluded by saying that her years of consistent living and faithful service showed the reality of Christine's decision.)

(Only Jesus can make the kinds of changes in the heart and life of a person. Some people will make an attempt at "turning over a new leaf." However, only Jesus can effect eternal change in hearts and lives. How wonderful that everyone who comes to Jesus is forever made new!")

(Ill. How miserable would a person be if they were taken to Heaven in their natural state.)

(Ill. According to Jesus, the new birth is not an option! He plainly says, "ye must be born again!", verse 7. There is no other option, no plan B. It is either Jesus or it is nothing! Without Him, you will never get to Heaven, you will never miss Hell. Jesus is the only way to the Father - John 14:6; 1 John 5:12.)

3. V. 8-13 The Imagery Of The New Birth - Jesus uses the image of the wind to describe the action of the Spirit. His movements, like those of the wind, cannot be predicted or anticipated. Like the wind, the movement of the Spirit is invisible, but powerful! When He passes by, He touches whom He will and His presence is easily seen!

(Ill. The dry bones of Ezekiel 37:1-14. When the wind of God moved over that which was dead. It became alive! This is what happens to the dead sinner. The Holy Ghost comes by and awakens the heart to the truths of God's Word, then the sinner is drawn to Jesus. When the sinner responds in faith, he is saved and given the new birth from God. The new birth is a necessity, but it is also a mystery! Just as the movement of the wind cannot be fully explained, so the child of God is a mystery to the world.)

(Ill. Even with his vast knowledge of the Old Testament, Nicodemus was still in the dark spiritually. He, like so many in our day, could not seem to grasp the simple truth that it is faith in Jesus that produces salvation for the soul!)

I. The Conversation


(Ill. In an effort to clear the mud for this confused man, Jesus goes on to explain things a little more deeply.)

A. V. 14 A Shadow From The Past - Jesus uses an event from Israel's history to illustrate His teaching. He calls to mind the scene of Numbers 21:4-10. In this passage, Israel is journeying through the wilderness and they are grumbling about their trials. God, in response, sends poisonous snakes into their midst and many of the people are bitten and die from the snake bites. Moses intercedes for the people and God tells him to fashion a snake from brass. He is to hang this brass snake on a pole. Then whoever is bitten and looks at the snake will live. Jesus is merely telling Nicodemus, that as that snake of old was lifted up, so must Jesus be lifted up.

(Ill. The whole world has been bitten by the snake of sin, and men are dying and dropping off into Hell. Just like that snake, whoever looks at Jesus in faith will live - Acts 16:31.)

B. V. 16 A Sacrifice For Sin - Jesus tells Nicodemus that God's love or humanity was so great that He willing gave up His only begotten Son to die that sinners might be saved. This has reference to the death Jesus suffered on our behalf. A death so horrible and so cruel that He was brutalized beyond comprehension - Isa. 52:14. (Ill. The events at Calvary and the agony Jesus endured for you and me.)

(Ill. Thank God, He did all this so that when we sinners come to bow before Him in repentant faith He has something to give us.)

C. V. 15-16 A Simple Plan Of Salvation - Jesus tells Nicodemus that the key to receiving salvation is as simple as believing.

(Ill. Religion tries to make it difficult for men to be made right with God. There are always rules to follow and steps to complete. Then, just when you think you have arrived, you always find that you have omitted some step or the other. Religion makes it impossible for men to be saved. Jesus, on the other hand, makes it so simple that little children, old people, people with limited intelligence, people who can't add or subtract, or even write their own name can be saved by the grace of God.)

(Ill. How much simpler could God have made it? He has already done all the work. He has paid all the prices. He has torn down all the barriers. All He asks the sinner to do is come to Him and believe Him. Isaiah said it this way, Isa. 45:22. Jesus said it this way, John 6:47. Paul said it this way, Acts 16:31. After 2,000 years, nothing has changed! Sinners are still saved by simply believing in Jesus and coming to Him by faith.)

D. V. 16 A Sure Provision - (Ill. "Whosoever") When the Lord made His plan of salvation, He determined to exclude no one! God has flung wide the doors of grace and beckons all who will to come to Him and be saved from their sins and from an eternity in Hell. If you need salvation, then today is the day to come to Jesus and to receive Him.) (Ill. Rev. 22:17 Ill. Matt. 11:28 - "All"; Rom. 10:13.) Salvation is a whosoever deal!

E. V. 16-17 A Solemn Promise - Jesus plainly promised those who believed in him that they would have eternal life and that they would never perish. To perish means to"be given over to the eternal misery of Hell!" Jesus, however has promised his children that they have ben "saved." This word means "to keep safe and sound, to rescue from all harm and danger."

(Ill. Apart from Jesus, the sinner can expect nothing less than eternal separation from the presence of God in hell, 2 Thes. 1:8-9. The saint, on the other hand, has the deep settled assurance that God will save him, preserve him and take him home to Heaven some wonderful day! What kind of hope do you have today? Where will you spend eternity?)

I. The Conversation

II. The Commentary


(Ill. Jesus has a word for those who refuse to come to Him for their salvation. He gives the sinner a little portrait of where they are and what they can except as a result of their refusal to come to Jesus.)

A. V. 18 A Present State - According to this verse, the Bible plainly says that the sinner is already condemned in the mind of God. You see, God's mind is already made up concerning the eternal state of those who refuse to come to Jesus. God has determined that they will spend eternity in Hell, forever separated from Him and His glory, Psa. 9:17. In other words, even though you may be lost and seated here today, in the mind of God, it is as if you were already condemned to Hell's fires. There is no other recourse for you but to run to Jesus for your soul's salvation.

B. V. 19-21 A Persistent State - The sinner has no one to blame for his condition but himself. After all, Jesus has already done everything in His power to save your soul. He died for you, paid your sin debt, rose from the dead to give you life, prays for you at the Father's throne, sends His Spirit to give you light and to draw you to Himself. If you are lost today, either you have never heard and today is the day when you will have to make an eternal decision, or you have already heard before and have chosen to go on in sin. Please do not continue to turn Jesus away. The day will come when there will be no more time and no more opportunities for you. Come to Jesus while there is still hope and while the Spirit of God is still calling you to him.

(Ill. The day will come, if you persist in denying the Lord, when you will run out of time and you state will become a permanent state. According to John 3:36, the saint of God lives in a continual state of "eternal life." At the same time, the sinner lives constantly under the wrath of God. Right now, if you are saved, you have everlasting life! You will never die. However, if you are lost, then the wrath of God hangs over your life like a giant wrecking ball. The only thing that keeps you out of Hell for another minute is the grace of a loving God. You need to consider that today as you think about where you are going to spend eternity. I challenge you to come to Jesus!)


If we have learned nothing else from the Master Teacher this morning, I think it is plain to see that God loves sinners and has done everything to provide for their salvation. He has done everything possible to draw you to Himself, except using force. Why not make this the day when the sacrifice of Jesus becomes relevant in you life? Why not make this the day of your salvation. Jesus loves you, He died for you and if you will come to Him in simple, childlike faith, He will save your soul and cleanse you from every sin. In your heart that is what you want. Why not make it a reality today?

Copyright 2003 by Alan Carr

See Also:

Nicodemus's Non-Decision: Reflections on John 3:1-16
by Alyce M. McKenzie

God's Mysterious Ways
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Devotional thoughts for Third Sunday after Denaha
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

A Teaching Moment - John 3:1-15
by Alan Carr

Regeneration (John 3:3)
by Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, 1857

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 3rd Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)

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