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As a High School English teacher, I have met hundreds of students over the past five years. Some are quirky, while others are just plain odd. Some genuinely enjoy learning, while others cannot wait to graduate and never look back. Nevertheless, I can always see who is interested in obtaining knowledge to get an “A”, and who desires to truly learn.
When I was a student, I am ashamed to say that I always cared more about getting a perfect grade point average than truly learning the material. And while it is embarrassing to note, I recall little to nothing from my math, science, or social studies classes. I studied the material and could regurgitate it for a test, but I was never truly learning the material. I had the content and face-value of knowledge down pat to get an “A.” I was a master at memorization and short-term memory. But I never allowed the material to penetrate my soul. I wonder how many of us do that when it comes to Jesus and our view of Christianity today.
Because if I am being honest, I fear that we value knowledge with precedence when what we should really be valuing is learning. We prioritize route memorization and rules when we should be emphasizing relationship, freedom, action, and truth.
What Do You Know?
In the book of John chapter 3, beginning with verses 1 through 15, Jesus has an interaction with someone else who was a bit too preoccupied with knowledge.
Nicodemus, a religious man greatly associated with the scholars, Pharisees, and Sadducees of his day, stumbled upon Jesus in the middle of the night. He was searching for knowledge. Mere intellectual information and hogwash. Something that would change his mind, but never his heart.
Yet although Nicodemus knew Jesus was a teacher and from God because of the miracles He did, he refused to believe anything further. In fact, the Scriptures reveal to us that he wouldn’t even acknowledge Him as the same as God, and certainly not the Savior of the world.
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:1-3, New International Version)
Today, I think we suffer from the same problem. We want to know about God, but we keep Him away from what’s really going on with us. We know deep down in our hearts that He is God, but we struggle to see how a person could be 3 in 1. We question how Jesus could be the Messiah when He does not appear as a King.
Yet, something still draws us to Him.
Anticipating something more.
Just like Nicodemus searching for answers in the middle of the night, we, too, are drawn near.
In the Middle of the Night
Because in the middle of the night, Nicodemus went searching. And he went looking at a time when things were dark.
Dense and foggy, when no one would see him.
Yet the fact that Nicodemus went at night strikes me. He wanted mere knowledge from Jesus.
Answers to burning questions.
Gasoline for his scorching fire.
But Jesus was offering him a new life.
A religious system flipped on its head.
A person in place of 600+ laws.
However Nicodemus wasn’t looking for a life change, he was looking for quick fixes and answers. He sought mere intellect. He strayed away from a re-orientation of his life. He was not looking for a new way. And sometimes, neither are we. Even when Jesus offers it to us.
A Different Kind of Offer
But Jesus knew this when Nicodemus came to Him in the middle of the night. He knows our hearts and searches the depths of them.
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:10, English Standard Version).
“And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27, English Standard Version).
And that is exactly why He told Nicodemus in verses 3-8 that in order to see the Kingdom of God, in order to fully possess knowledge, one would have to be born again. They would have to let the knowledge become a way of life, a way of learning.
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:3-8, New International Version).
The Truth About Learning
Whether we want to admit it or not, it is only through that personal acceptance of who Jesus is and what He can do in our lives that we will receive true knowledge. And it is only through a humble heart of learning that we will ever achieve it.
Through personal acceptance, confession, and a relationship with Jesus that can happen, but Nicodemus would have none of it. He was a Pharisee after all. He supposedly intellectual knew all there was to know about this “Jesus.” About this coming Messiah. But when the real Jesus flipped that pre-disposition on its head, Nicodemus didn’t know what to do. How could this law-abiding man separate his head from his heart?
He couldn’t. And that is why when Jesus told him to be born again, he took it literally rather than figuratively in verses 9-15.
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:9-15, New International Version).
The Truth About Knowledge
We, too, can be great and wise teachers, that know nothing at all (verses 9-10). And the truth of the matter is this: Unless we are willing to recognize who we are, and how different we are from Christ; unless we are able to separate our ideas of how we think God should appear, act, move, and use us, from how He really does, we will miss the point entirely.
We will miss out on Him.
For if we cannot believe Him now, how will we believe in Him then (verses 11-12)?
Seek the knowledge and truth of the Truth today, my friends. In the middle of the night, but also in the bright noon of day.
He will be there waiting.
He always is.