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Nicodemus: Do you not understand these things?


A survey by the National Center for Education Studies (NCES) revealed that 30 percent of chemistry and physics teachers and 50 percent of earth science teachers in public high schools had neither majored nor earned teaching certificates in those fields. In some cases, taking one chemistry class in college was considered sufficient qualification. “If you don’t have content knowledge then it’s very difficult to teach the class, and it’s virtually impossible to inspire somebody,” said Tom Luce, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative.

Nicodemus was supposed to be a teacher of the law, a Pharisee, a member of the ruling council. And yet he did not understand heavenly things. Today we begin a week of studying Jesus’ questions that transform lives, and His conversation with Nicodemus has been changing the lives of men and women for thousands of years.

From what Nicodemus said to Jesus, we know that some of the religious leaders recognized that Jesus had some kind of divine blessing based on His teaching and miracles (v. 2). But he almost certainly did not expect this opening compliment to be met with a discussion about being born again in order to see the kingdom of God. How was this possible? Nicodemus was so focused on the natural mechanism of birth that he couldn’t grasp the work of God’s Spirit.

Jesus then drew on an image that Nicodemus would have known: the bronze serpent that Moses erected in the wilderness to provide salvation from a plague of venomous snakes (see Num. 21:4–9). Like that serpent, Jesus would also be lifted up to provide life—eternal life—for everyone who looked to Him in faith. Nicodemus thought Jesus was a wise teacher; he learned that Jesus was the Son of God who brought life and salvation.

Apply the Word

This chapter doesn’t tell us what happened to Nicodemus, but later in John’s Gospel we see that he defended Jesus and helped to claim and anoint His body (see John 7:50; 19:39). Christian tradition claims that he was martyred for his faith in Jesus a few years later. It seems that he finally grasped that spiritual life is worth more than earthly prestige.

BY Heather Moffitt, Managing Editor

Heather Moffitt has served as managing editor of Today in the Word since 1999. She loves working with the talented team of writers, editors, and production staff to ensure that insightful devotional studies reach our readers each month. Heather also loves running, whitewater rafting, travel, and singing in a Gospel Choir.

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