Man’s Greatest Need

Title: Man's Greatest Need

Bible Book: John 3 : 1-21

Author: Gary Webb

Subject: Salvation



A man's greatest desire and his greatest need are not always the same. Nicodemus was a man who seemed to have it all, except what he needed most. He wasn't yet prepared to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus made it clear about those who would not be able to enter His kingdom.

Matthew 7:21 - "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. It's not just religious talk.

Matthew 18:3 - Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. It's not a matter of great maturity.

Mark 10:23 - Jesus said, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is not a matter of having the greatest earthly wealth. 

I. Nicodemus had great religious credentials, but that wasn't enough.

He was a Pharisee, the strictest religious group. He was a ruler of the Jews, a member of the Sanhedrin [a council of the top 70 men of Israel]. He had plenty of religious status, but that just wasn't enough.

It's kinda like the Shania Twain song, "That Don't Impress Me Much." The song starts off saying:

"I've known a few guys who thought they were pretty smart,

But you've got that being right down to an art.

You think you're a genius-you drive me up the wall.

You're a regular original, a know-it-all.

Oh-oo-oh, you think you're special.

Oh-oo-oh, you think you're something else.

Okay, so you're a rocket scientist,

That don't impress me much."

Most people would have been really impressed to have the great Nicodemus come visiting them. But that just didn't impress Jesus that much, because as John 2:25 said, "..He knew what was in man." Nicodemus looked great on the outside, but inside he was missing something crucial. 

II. Nicodemus had great respect for Jesus, but that wasn't enough.

Nicodemus understood that Jesus was a man of God. He understood that God was with Jesus in His ministry. No doubt he had seen, or at least heard about, the miracles of Jesus. Perhaps he had heard some of Jesus' beautiful teaching. Many people thought Jesus was a great man or a great teacher, but not the one and only Savior.

Matthew 16:13-16, "When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?' So they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?'"

That's the heart of the matter, isn't it? Then the scripture continues: "Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

In his book "Mere Christianity," C.S. Lewis makes this statement, "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg - or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us." 

III. Nicodemus came to Jesus wanting more knowledge, but it wasn't enough.

He was a well-known Bible teacher in Israel. His denomination was the strictest, but that wasn't enough. Jesus taught that God requires a righteousness far greater than what the scribes and Pharisees had.

Matthew 5:19-20."Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven".

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for having a lot of Bible knowledge, but no spiritual life.

John 5:39-40."You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life."

Jesus didn't rebuke Nicodemus for his coming by night. Each time he is mentioned in John's gospel this detail is included. He later defended Jesus (John 7:46-53) Like Joseph of Arimathea, he may have been afraid of the other Jewish leaders (John 19:38-42)

Don't let anyone or anything keep you from having a personal encounter with Jesus.

What Nicodemus needed was not just more knowledge but a new life, a life that only God could give.

Ezekiel 18:31."Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?"

Ezekiel 36:26-27."I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."

IV. Nicodemus had seen the miracles of Jesus, but that wasn't enough.

Many people saw the miracles, but most missed their meaning - Messiah has come! 1 Corinthians 2:12-14,"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Many people saw the miracles and even had a kind of faith, but no salvation. Many saw the miracles, but they didn't experience the greatest miracle in their own lives.

John 1:12-13,"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."


General William Nelson, a Union general in the Civil War, was consumed with the battles in Kentucky, when a brawl between two of his troops ended up in his being shot in the chest. He had faced many battles, but the fatal blow came while he was relaxing with his men. As such, General Nelson was caught fully unprepared. As men ran up the stairs to help him, the general spoke just one sentence, "Send for a clergyman; I wish to be baptized."

Nelson never had time as an adolescent or young man. He never had time as a private or after he became a general. And this General would did not stop or slow down the war. After the bullet struck him, everything around him was left virtually unchanged - except for the general's priorities. With only minutes left on this earth, the one thing he cared about was preparing for eternity. Thirty minutes later, he was dead.

We don't get to chose when or where the wind blows. We still don't completely understand it any more than we understand how God gives someone a new life. We just feel His touch and see the results. When God is dealing with us, we must presume to tell Him that He must wait, or that we are too busy. If the Lord is calling you to put your faith in Him today, then do it now...right now, before you do another thing.

Maybe you need someone to take the time to open the Scriptures and answer some questions this morning. Maybe someone to pray with you. I urge you not to delay.

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