Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
(Joh 3:1-3 ESV)
C.S. Lewis devoted a bit of time in several of his essays to demonstrate that in a debate, the party that is successful in establishing the platform or premise for the argument is often the winner. The explanation for this phenomenon is that my thoughts and reasoning flow from a set of values that influence my perspective. These values form the platform from which I build my arguments. If I can convince you to debate from my platform, I am better able to cause you to lose confidence in your position and increase your sympathy for mine.
So what does this cute little concept have to do with the Gospel of John Chapter 3?
A Teacher of the Law and ruler of the Jews comes for a midnight meeting with the God of the Jews and tries to establish his authority and direct the conversation. Nicodemus speaks of validating Jesus’ ministry, but he is speaking from the platform that he (Nicodemus) is the one to venerate Jesus. In essence he begins by telling Jesus that his ministry appears to be solid.
Notice the irony? We have a teacher of the Law of God and a ruler of the People of God, speaking with God. From his position of Theological enlightenment, Nicodemus is almost ready to give God an A+. I don’t know about you, but I believe I hear echoes of myself in Nicodemus.
Jesus is about His Father’s Business, not the business of Nicodemus. It is here that Jesus does something that we would almost consider rude. He simply ignores Nicodemus’ compliment and changes the subject. He graciously shifts the platform of the discussion from Nicodemus’ implied position of authority to Nicodemus’ real position. He needs God’s approval. He needs a change of heart and life. He needs to be born again!
Jesus didn’t fall for the trap of accepting the premise from which Nicodemus began the conversation. Nicodemus had a good heart and somewhat of an open mind, but in his mind, he was there to help Jesus, when in reality he was the one who needed help. Had he persisted in his perception of himself, he would soon have been resisting Jesus.
It is very important that we are aware of the platform from which we are speaking. We can speak from a humanistic (man-centered or me-centered) platform or from a God-centered platform. We can be about our business or about our Father’s business. Jesus recognized the platform and deftly shifted the discussion as well as Nicodemus’ perspective from his accomplishment to his need.
There are a lot of lessons here, but the one which strikes me pertains to how I approach the Work of Christ in my life and in the lives of others.
Do I condescendingly set myself up as the arbiter between God and man, acting as if He needs me to authenticate His work as it makes sense from my perspective? Many times I find myself trying to tell God whether or not His work is authentic.
Does God need my approval? No! No more than Jesus needed the approval of Nicodemus. The commonality between Nicodemus and me is that both need a Savior. Both need rebirth. Both need a life and a power that is bigger than us. What we all need is Salvation. We Need Justification. We need Sanctification. We need and are looking for glorification someday.
Yet, like Nicodemus, I too often come to God trying to help Him with His image, and trying to make Him acceptable with my generation. In my pride, I think I need to explain to God, how He should handle people and deal with their situations. It is here that I find Jesus needs to change the conversation and switch the platforms.
He is the one who helps me, I don’t help Him. He is the one who justifies me (Romans 8:33) not the other way around. He is the one who opens doors for me. He is the one who offers me eternal life. He is the one who offers me the opportunity to be His child. Wow!
Today, in my times of prayer, I need to allow God to establish the platform for the conversation. I am not here to instruct the Shepherd. I need to listen. In the past, I have been a little rough on Nicodemus, because he knew so little. Today, I am actually impressed with the man because he allowed his platform to be changed very quickly and humbled himself to hear the Master.
If I want to hear God, I have to allow Him to establish the platform of our conversation. Somehow, in doing this I believe I will catch a view of His Kingdom.