The final week of the school holiday is here – how time flies, especially during holidays. I hope you all had a good Easter and learned the true meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, to behold the Man, and to understand the significance of His sacrifice to our lives. On this occasion, I would like to recommend a great Christian series called The Chosen for you to watch before the holiday ends.
The Chosen is relatively new and is ranked 1st as the most crowd-funded movie project of all time. This Christian TV series can be watched for free from Youtube or on their app. The first season contains eight episodes and a bonus Christmas episode. The second season was just released last week on Easter Sunday.
I started watching this series not long ago, and I really enjoyed how each episode can depict important events in the Bible that deepened my personal understanding and interpretation while still being entertaining enough for a younger audience like us.
The Israelite’s Teacher
Nicodemus was an Israelite Pharisee of high position and a member of the ‘Sanhedrin’ (the Jewish ruling council). Among all the Pharisees who disapproved of Jesus, Nicodemus was probably the only one who believed in Jesus’ miracles and teachings. The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus was particularly important as it was the last time He had a dialogue with a Jewish religious leader before His trials. He remained silent to most questions and was eventually crucified. In this conversation, Jesus truly revealed himself to Nicodemus and all of us — from which we can capture so many important points about Him.
Sent from God
It was late at night when Nicodemus met Jesus. Due to his high position, Nicodemus was afraid of being seen by the other Pharisees; hence he chose such an hour.
“I believe you are not acting alone. No one can do these signs you do without having God in him — only someone who has come from God.”
Nicodemus had seen several of Jesus’ miracles, such as His exorcism of Mary Magdalene and the healing of the paralytic. By saying this, Nicodemus proclaimed that he believed Jesus was sent from God.
Just like us, Nicodemus had many doubts and questions that he wanted to ask Jesus. In the movie, he asked Jesus, “What have you come here to show us?” Much to the anticipation of Nicodemus, Jesus replied, saying that He had come to show them a kingdom. Nicodemus did not understand that the kingdom Jesus was talking about was not of this world and protested about the rulers of Rome viewing Jesus as a threat. Jesus cuts him off, saying, “A sort of kingdom that a person cannot see unless he is born again.”
The creators of The Chosen accurately depicted the confusion that we may likely experience when we hear the term ‘born again’. Nicodemus was deeply puzzled about what Jesus meant before questioning Him further, “You mean like a new creature? A conversion from a Gentile to a Jew?” He even joked about his old age, unable to return to his dead mother’s womb to be born a second time.
The first time I heard the term ‘born again’ in Sunday School when I was younger, I was confused, just like Nicodemus. What does it mean? Does being ‘born again’ mean literally going back into my mother’s womb and going through the whole birth process again?
Jesus explained, “Truly I say to you unless one is born of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. That part of you is what must be reborn to new life.” Despite being Israel’s teacher with extensive knowledge and study of the scriptures, Nicodemus was still confused after hearing Jesus’ explanation. Jesus’ further elaboration was really interesting for me. He explained John 3:8 in a way that I had never thought of before.
Jesus: “What do you hear?”
Nicodemus: “The wind.”
Jesus: “How do you know it’s the wind?”
Nicodemus: “Because I can feel it. I can hear its sound.”
Jesus: “Do you know where it comes from?”
Jesus: “Do you know where it’s going?”
Jesus: “That’s what it is to be born again of the Spirit. The Spirit may work in a way that is a mystery to you. And while you cannot see the Spirit, you can recognise his effect.”
Being born again is not about the physical birth associated with the flesh, but it’s about our spiritual lives. To be reborn in spirit is to have a change in heart, truly accepting God and living a new life – one that is lived for God and pleasing towards Him. The Holy Spirit is instilled and working within us, given to us by God to help us in our walk of faith. Just like how the wind continues to blow in a way we cannot understand, sometimes, we cannot recognise the work of God’s hand or understand the way he chooses to work in us. But in the end, we always recognise the effect of the spirit and receive its fruits.
Came from Heaven
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.” (John 3:9)
“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” (John 3:13)
Speaking to a Pharisee, Jesus knew that Nicodemus valued the law and was keen on obeying it. But the message Jesus is trying to convey here is that no one has succeeded to go to heaven by keeping and following the law. In other words, Jesus wanted to say that we cannot enter heaven by our own works.
It is He, the Son of Man, who has descended from heaven to save us. And Jesus continued this conversation with the ‘how’.
Lift Up 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 3:14)
Knowing Nicodemus had a thorough understanding of the Old Testament (Torah), Jesus mentioned an event where Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness so that whoever was bitten by a snake would live by looking at it. In this, Jesus revealed His identity as the Son of Man who will be lifted up, that whoever believes will be saved.
Many people in Jesus’ time, just like Nicodemus, thought that the Messiah was going to come as a king. They perceived him to be a grand royal who would fight against the Roman rulers and deliver the people from the heavy taxation and oppression. But Jesus did not come to Earth as a king. Instead, He chose to be born in a humble manger, raised in a Nazarene carpenter family and despised by the religious rulers. He came into the world not to condemn it but to walk in the path of perfect obedience toward His Father so that through Him, the world could be saved from evil. He was to be lifted up neither to save the people dying from snake bites nor to save them from taxations or oppressions, but instead to save them from spiritual death in SIN.
Suddenly, we could see the camera shifted to John and Andrew, who was eavesdropping on the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. John furiously wrote down this important conversation, which would later become the gospel of John. As the camera shifted back to Jesus and Nicodemus, it led to the most famous verse of the Bible.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
John 3:16 has been one of my all-time favourite verses, one that I can recite off by heart. This verse sums up all the Bible contents leading up to Christ, God’s plan when sending His Son, and Jesus’ work on Earth. God loved us in such a way that he was willing to send down His only Son to be lifted up on the cross on Calvary to save us from the spiritual death in sin.
The movie scene of this meeting ended somewhat differently than in the Bible. Jesus invited Nicodemus to follow Him. Nicodemus was hesitant. He had wealth, a position in the Sanhedrin, a loving wife, many children, and grandchildren, and he was also getting advanced in age. He would have to give up his comfortable life and possessions to follow Jesus.
In the next episode (ep 8), Jesus and his disciples are seen waiting at the well, ready to depart to Tiberius. Nicodemus is hiding in the corner. He had left a bag of gold for Jesus but was unwilling to leave behind his current life to follow Jesus. In disappointment, Jesus said, “You came so close” while Nicodemus sobs in the corner.
While this particular event was not stated in the Bible, I recalled a similar occurrence when Jesus asked an unnamed rich man to follow him. Even though the rich man wanted to follow Jesus, he did not want to give up his wealth.
Most of the time, we are all just like Nicodemus and the rich man. We hold on to so many things such as our money, our achievements, our friends, our comfort in life, all things that we think can make us happy. We are so unwilling to give them up to follow Christ.
Will we leave all these things behind to follow Him, or will we let HIM go after coming so close?
This episode of The Chosen gave me a unique viewpoint of John 3:1-16 that has deepened my personal understanding and interpretation of this passage. I hope you will enjoy this series as much as I do.