MORE THAN A GOOD TEACHER (JN 3, PS 1)
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
"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." (John 3:1-2 ESV)
Israel had had plenty of good teachers or prophets throughout their history. Men called and empowered by God to bring messages to the people and do miraculous signs for the glory of God. Moses parted the Red Sea and brought the Law. Elijah summoned fire from Heaven to consume a drenched altar before the idolatrous prophets of Baal. Isaiah spoke of a future suffering king who would redeem Israel. Nicodemus knew about all of these teachers of old and saw similar power and characteristics in Jesus. He comes to Jesus seeking understanding and yet does not recognize his promised Messiah before him. Nicodemus came seeking wisdom from a good teacher and did not recognize he was talking with God
"He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." (John 3:31-36 ESV)
In contrast to Nicodemus, the chapter closes with John the Baptist proclaiming the truth about Jesus' identity as the God-man Messiah. We see the Trinity on display in John's words as he explains to his disciples why it is his joy that he would decrease in his ministry as Christ would increase. This Jesus, more than just a good teacher, was God the Son, sent to the world by God the Father to bring life by God the Spirit to all those who would believe. Israel did not need another good teacher; they needed a Messiah. And God was faithful to fulfill his promise of sending the Savior.
This is the same hope we have. Contrary to many in the world who would see Jesus as a historical figure who brought wise teachings and performed some interesting wonders, we can look to Jesus as the one who not only teaches us many things about life and godliness, but as God himself who provided the means for us through the cross and resurrection to look forward to eternal life. In times of anxiety, trouble, uncertainty, and pandemic alike, I am grateful that we have more than just a good teacher to give us fleeting words of wisdom that apply only to our finite lives. We have a great Savior who taught about and brought everlasting life as the ultimate hope and end for all who would turn and trust in him.