Leader Bible Study
Jesus’ ministry had begun. His early miracles included turning water into wine, casting out demons, and healing people. John 2:23 says that “many believed in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.” Jesus likely spent a large part of His day teaching. When the day was done, He spent time alone or with His disciples. One night, a man named Nicodemus approached Jesus.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews; that is, he was a religious leader who taught God’s law, and he was a member of the Sanhedrin—a Jewish governing body. Nicodemus held to the belief that if a person was a law-abiding Jew, he would be accepted by God. Jesus gave Nicodemus a lesson that would turn his belief system on its head.
Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3), so the religious teachers likely assumed He didn’t know theology. But they had seen Jesus’ miraculous signs in Jerusalem. Nicodemus had to conclude, “You are a teacher who has come from God” (John 3:2).
Nicodemus initiated the conversation, but Jesus chose the subject. His words perplexed Nicodemus: “Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Jesus explained that spiritual birth is not unlike physical birth in that a person cannot do it himself; it is something that happens to him.
Jesus reminded Nicodemus of an Old Testament account, the disobedient Israelites and the bronze snake. The Israelites could not help themselves, but when they trusted in God and looked to the bronze snake lifted up on the pole, they were healed. (Num. 21:4-9)
Emphasize to kids that every person is born a sinner—spiritually dead and alienated from God. It is by God’s Spirit—not our own effort—that we are born again. We look to Jesus and His finished work on the cross for our salvation.
The BIBLE Story
Jesus and Nicodemus
Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover feast. One night, a religious man came to see Jesus. The man’s name was Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He studied and taught God’s law, and he tried very hard to obey the law. Nicodemus wanted to know more about Jesus.
“Rabbi,” he said, “we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. No one could do the miracles You do unless God were with him.”
Nicodemus had that right. Jesus said, “I tell you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Now Nicodemus was confused. He thought that keeping all God’s laws was how a person got into heaven. Besides, what Jesus said didn’t make any sense! “How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked.
Jesus said, “A person cannot enter God’s kingdom unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.” When a baby is born, he gets physical life from his parents. Physical life doesn’t last forever. But the Spirit gives people a better kind of life—spiritual life—so they can live with God forever.
Jesus said, “Don’t be surprised I told you that you must be born again.”
Nicodemus still didn’t understand. “How is this possible?” he asked.
Jesus said, “When you don’t believe what I say about things I’ve seen on earth, how will you believe what I say about the things I’ve seen in heaven? Do you remember how Moses raised up the bronze snake in the wilderness? Everyone who looked at it was healed. Like that, the Son of Man will be raised up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.”
Then Jesus told Nicodemus about God’s great plan. Jesus said, “God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send His Son to declare the world guilty, but to save the world. Anyone who believes in Him is found not guilty, but anyone who does not believe in Him is guilty already.”
Christ Connection: Nicodemus needed new life—eternal life—but he could not do anything to earn it. Eternal life is a gift that comes only from God. God showed His love in this way: He sent His one and only Son to save the world. Everyone who believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.
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