The same came to Jesus - The design of his coming seems to have been to inquire more fully of Jesus what was the doctrine which he came to teach. He seems to have been convinced that he was the Messiah, and desired to be further instructed in private respecting his doctrine, It was not usual for a man of rank, power, and riches to come to inquire of Jesus in this manner; yet we may learn that the most favorable opportunity for teaching such men the nature of personal religion is when they are alone. Scarcely any man, of any rank, will refuse to converse on this subject when addressed respectfully and tenderly in private. In the midst of their companions, or engaged in business, they may refuse to listen or may cavil. When alone, they will hear the voice of entreaty and persuasion, and be willing to converse on the great subjects of judgment and eternity. Thus Paul says Galatians 2:2, “privately to them which are of reputation,” evincing his consummate prudence, and his profound knowledge of human nature.
By night - It is not mentioned why he came by night. It might have been that, being a member of the Sanhedrin, he was engaged all the day; or it may have been because the Lord Jesus was occupied all the day in teaching publicly and in working miracles, and that there was no opportunity for conversing with him as freely as he desired; or it may have been that he was afraid of the ridicule and contempt of those in power, and fearful that it might involve him in danger if publicly known; or it may have been that he was afraid that if it were publicly known that he was disposed to favor the Lord Jesus, it might provoke more opposition against him and endanger his life. Since no bad motive is imputed to him, it is most in accordance with Christian charity to suppose that his motives were such as God would approve, especially as the Saviour did not reprove him. We should not be disposed to blame men where Jesus did not, and we should desire to find goodness in every man rather than be ever on the search for evil motives. See 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We may learn here:
1.That our Saviour, though engaged during the day, did nor refuse to converse with an inquiring sinner at night. Ministers of the gospel at all times should welcome those who are asking the way to life.
2.That it is proper for men, even those of elevated rank, to inquire on the subject of religion. Nothing is so important as religion, and no temper of mind is more lovely than a disposition to ask the way to heaven. At all times men should seek the way of salvation, and especially in times of great religions excitement they should make inquiry. At Jerusalem, at the time referred to here, there was great solicitude. Many believed on Jesus. He performed miracles, and preached, and many were converted. There was what would now be called a revival of religion, having all the features of a work of grace. At such a season it was proper, as it is now, that not only the poor, but the rich and great, should inquire the path to life.
Rabbi - This was a title of respect conferred on distinguished Jewish teachers, somewhat in the way that the title “Doctor of Divinity” is now conferred. See the notes at John 1:38. Our Saviour forbade his disciples to wear that title (see the notes at Matthew 23:8), though it was proper for Him to do it, as being the great Teacher of mankind. It literally signifies great, and was given by Nicodemus, doubtless, because Jesus gave distinguished proofs that he came as a teacher from God.
We know - I know, and those with whom I am connected. Perhaps he was acquainted with some of the Pharisees who entertained the same opinion about Jesus that he did, and he came to be more fully confirmed in the belief.
Come from God - Sent by God. This implies his readiness to hear him, and his desire to be instructed. He acknowledges the divine mission of Jesus, and delicately asks him to instruct him in the truth of religion. When we read the words of Jesus in the Bible, it should be with a belief that he came from God, and was therefore qualified and authorized to teach us the way of life.
These miracles - The miracles which he performed in the Temple and at Jerusalem, John 2:23.
Except God be with him - Except God aid him, and except his instructions are approved by God. Miracles show that a prophet or religious teacher comes from God, because God would nor work a miracle in attestation of a falsehood or to give countenance to a false teacher. If God gives a man power to work a miracle, it is proof that he approves the teaching of that man, and the miracle is the proof or the credential that he came from God.
Came to Jesus by night - He had matters of the utmost importance, on which he wished to consult Christ; and he chose the night season, perhaps less through the fear of man than through a desire to have Jesus alone, as he found him all the day encompassed with the multitude; so that it was impossible for him to get an opportunity to speak fully on those weighty affairs concerning which he intended to consult him. However, we may take it for granted that he had no design at present to become his disciple; as baptism and circumcision, which were the initiating ordinances among the Jews, were never administered in the night time. If any person received baptism by night, he was not acknowledged for a proselyte. See Wetstein. But as Jews were not obliged to be baptized, they being circumcised, and consequently in the covenant, he, being a Jew, would not feel any necessity of submitting to this rite.
Rabbi - My Master, or Teacher, a title of respect given to the Jewish doctors, something like our Doctor of Divinity, i.e. teacher of Divine things. But as there may be many found among us who, though they bear the title, are no teachers, so it was among the Jews; and perhaps it was in reference to this that Nicodemus uses the word διδασκαλος, didaskalos, immediately after, by which, in John 1:38, St. John translates the word rabbi. Rabbi, teacher, is often no more than a title of respect: didaskolos signifies a person who not only has the name of teacher, but who actually does teach.
We know that thou art a teacher come from God - We, all the members of the grand Sanhedrin, and all the rulers of the people, who have paid proper attention to thy doctrine and miracles. We are all convinced of this, though we are not all candid enough to own it. It is possible, however, that οιδαμεν, we know, signifies no more than, it is known, it is generally acknowledged and allowed, that thou art a teacher come from God.
No man can do these miracles - It is on the evidence of thy miracles that I ground my opinion of thee. No man can do what thou dost, unless the omnipotence of God be with him.
Christ was a teacher sent from God, and His words did not contain a particle of chaff or a semblance of that which is nonessential. But the force of much human instruction is comprised in assertion, not in truth. The teachers of the present day can only use the educated ability of previous teachers; and yet with all the weighty importance which may be attached to the words of the greatest authors, there is a conscious inability to trace them back to the first great principle, the Source of unerring wisdom, from which teachers derive their authority. There is a painful uncertainty, a constant searching and reaching for assurances that can only be found in God. The trumpet of human greatness may be sounded, but it is with an uncertain sound; it is not reliable, and the salvation of human souls cannot be ventured upon it. FE 407.1
A mass of tradition, with merely a semblance of truth, is being brought into education, which will never fit the learner to live in this life so that he may obtain the higher immortal life. The literature placed in our schools, written by infidels and so-called wise men, does not contain the education that students should have. It is not essential that they shall be educated in these lines in order to graduate from these schools to the school which is in heaven. The mass of tradition taught will bear no comparison with the teachings of Him who came to show the way to heaven. Christ taught with authority. The sermon on the mount is a wonderful production, yet so simple that a child can study it without being misled. The mount of beatitudes is an emblem of the high elevation on which Christ ever stood. He spoke with an authority which was exclusively His own. Every sentence He uttered came from God. He was the Word and the Wisdom of God, and He ever presented truth with the authority of God. “The words that I speak unto you,” He said, “they are spirit and they are life.” FE 407.2
That which in the councils of heaven the Father and the Son deemed essential for the salvation of man, was defined from eternity by infinite truths which finite beings cannot fail to comprehend. Revelations have been made for their instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may glorify his own life and the lives of his fellow men, not only by the possession of truth, but by communicating it. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” FE 408.1Read in context »
All the rays of light shining in the Scriptures point to Jesus Christ, and testify of Him, linking together the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Christ is presented as the author and finisher of their faith, Himself the one in whom their hopes of eternal life are centered. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” FE 383.1
What book can begin to compare with the Bible? It is essential for every child, for youth, and for those of mature age to understand; for it is the word of God, the word to guide all the human family to heaven. Then why does not the word from God contain the chief elements which constitute education? Uninspired authors are placed in the hands of children and youth in our schools as lesson books—books from which they are to be educated. They are kept before the youth, taking up their precious time in studying those things which they can never use. Many books have been introduced into the schools which should never have been placed there. These books do not in any sense voice the words of John, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” The whole line of study in our schools should be to prepare a people for the future, immortal life. FE 383.2
Jesus Christ is the knowledge of the Father, and Christ is our great teacher sent from God. Christ has declared in the sixth chapter of John that He is that bread sent down from heaven. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” The disciples did not comprehend His words. Says Christ, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” FE 383.3Read in context »
The same divine mind that is working upon the things of nature is speaking to the hearts of men and creating an inexpressible craving for something they have not. The things of the world cannot satisfy their longing. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek for those things that alone can give peace and rest—the grace of Christ, the joy of holiness. Through influences seen and unseen, our Saviour is constantly at work to attract the minds of men from the unsatisfying pleasures of sin to the infinite blessings that may be theirs in Him. To all these souls, who are vainly seeking to drink from the broken cisterns of this world, the divine message is addressed, “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17. SC 28.1
You who in heart long for something better than this world can give, recognize this longing as the voice of God to your soul. Ask Him to give you repentance, to reveal Christ to you in His infinite love, in His perfect purity. In the Saviour's life the principles of God's law—love to God and man—were perfectly exemplified. Benevolence, unselfish love, was the life of His soul. It is as we behold Him, as the light from our Saviour falls upon us, that we see the sinfulness of our own hearts. SC 28.2
We may have flattered ourselves, as did Nicodemus, that our life has been upright, that our moral character is correct, and think that we need not humble the heart before God, like the common sinner: but when the light from Christ shines into our souls, we shall see how impure we are; we shall discern the selfishness of motive, the enmity against God, that has defiled every act of life. Then we shall know that our own righteousness is indeed as filthy rags, and that the blood of Christ alone can cleanse us from the defilement of sin, and renew our hearts in His own likeness. SC 28.3Read in context »
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. SC 57.1
A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or trace all the chain of circumstances in the process of conversion; but this does not prove him to be unconverted. Christ said to Nicodemus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8. Like the wind, which is invisible, yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart. That regenerating power, which no human eye can see, begets a new life in the soul; it creates a new being in the image of God. While the work of the Spirit is silent and imperceptible, its effects are manifest. If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact. While we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works, our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits. The contrast will be clear and decided between what they have been and what they are. The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts. SC 57.2Read in context »
This is the very education that every student needs. When this is obtained, if they are converted, the frivolous life they have heretofore lived will change. The universe of heaven will look upon characters that have been transformed. The frivolous, common level will be forsaken, and their feet will be placed upon the first round of the ladder, which is Christ Jesus. They will mount step by step, one round after another, heavenward. Christ will be revealed in their spirit, in their words, in their actions. FE 459.1
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Will teachers and students study this representation, and see if they are in that class who, through the abundant grace given, are obtaining an experience which is in harmony with the real, genuine experience which every child of God must have if he enters the higher grade. FE 459.2
When Nicodemus came to Jesus, Christ laid before him the conditions of divine life, teaching him the very alphabet of conversion. Nicodemus asked, “How can these things be?” “Art thou a master of Israel,” Christ answered, “and knowest not these things?” This question might be addressed to many who are holding positions of responsibility as teachers, but who have neglected the work essential for them to do before they were qualified to be teachers. If Christ's words were received into the soul, there would be a much higher intelligence, and a much deeper spiritual knowledge of what constitutes one a disciple and a sincere follower of Christ. When the test and trial comes to every soul, there will be apostasies. Traitors, heady, highminded and self-sufficient men will turn away from the truth, making shipwreck of their faith. Why?—Because they did not dig deep, and make their foundation sure. They were not riveted to the eternal Rock. When the words of the Lord, through His chosen messengers, are brought to them, they murmur and think the way is made too strait. Like those who were thought to be the disciples of Christ, but who were displeased by His words, and walked no more with Him, they will turn away from Christ. FE 459.3Read in context »