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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels

Chapter 57 - John 3:2 - The World's Need of Something more than a Teacher Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius




The World's Need Of Something More

Than A Teacher.


"We know that thou art a teacher come from God."-John 3:2.



     We take Nicodemus as one of the best specimens of "religious humanity"; educated, moral, of high position and culture; a strict observer of religious rites, and seasons, and ordinances; a "ruler of the Jews," a "master of Israel," and a believer in Israel's promised Messiah.

     He ought to have known fully Messiah's errand, and to have recognized Him at once when He came. But even Nicodemus, this well-instructed religious ruler and master, one of the heads of the straitest sect, fails to understand Him. He approaches Him only as a teacher. He accepts Him as such, but as nothing more. Like the rest of his nation and race, he was in quest of "knowledge"; and for such he went to Jesus. Like our first parents, he saw that "the tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise"; this was all. He had no deeper sense of need. "We know that thou art a teacher come from God," was the intimation of his state of mind; it skewed how little his conscience was at work; how superficial, as well as self-righteous, were his views as to his own spiritual condition. He knew not that he was poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked.

     Thus we have in him a specimen of man,-educated, moral, religious man,-unconscious of his own true need, and blind to God's provision for that need.

     I. Man's unconsciousness of his true need. Nicodemus, with all his religious advantages, has not fathomed the depth of his own spiritual wants. He knows that he needs something; but he does not know how much; nor does he know what is the real nature of his great need. He wants a teacher,-that is all! He thinks that will suffice. But farther than this he goes not; deeper than this he descends not. He thinks there is but one empty chamber in his house; unconscious that all are empty, or if filled at all, filled with that which must be cast out and cast away. He thinks there is but a slight bruise in one of his limbs, when there is poison in every vein; when the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. He needs pardon; yet he is unconscious of condemnation. He needs reconciliation; yet he is unconscious of distance, and wrath, and doom. He needs life; yet he is unconscious of the death in which he lies. He does not know what sin is; what enmity to God is; what distance from God is; what it is to be lost; what it is to be without the favor and love of God; what the world is in which he dwells, and of which he forms a part; what Satan is, his great adversary. He has no idea of the extent of his ruin, and the greatness of his danger. He does not see that, apart from hell and wrath, the simple absence of God from the heart would be unutterable wretchedness. He does not see that simply to be left unchanged and unconverted would be of itself hell. But of all the evil of sin, the evil of his own heart, he is utterly unconscious. He is not in the least alive to his want,-either as to its nature or its extent. Yes, humanity is unconscious of its ruin! The human heart knows not the vacuity that has been made in it by the absence of God; it knows not the malignity of one single sin,-one single act of disobedience, one moment's insubordination of the will, one moment's ceasing to love God with all the heart and soul. Unconsciousness of his own need; insensibility to his own sin; palsy of the conscience,-this is man's great evil. To remove this unconsciousness, and to impart true consciousness in regard to these things, is the first great work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. That this unconsciousness is voluntary and deliberate we cannot doubt. This is the aggravation of the evil; this is the consummation of the guilt. Man shrinks from knowing the worst of himself; nay, he refuses to know it. He willfully shuts his eyes to the nature and to the extent of his spiritual evil. He tries to make himself believe that his case is not so very serious after all. He takes pride in owning himself a little in the wrong, needing some help, some light, some teaching; but beyond that he refuses to go. Thus far Nicodemus went when he came to Jesus; but at that time he was not prepared to go farther. But the Lord led him on. He did not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.

     II. Man's blindness to God's provision for his need. He to whom Nicodemus came was God's provision for man's need. It was the provision of love and bounty; "He spared not his Son." But man does not appreciate this provision, because he does not apprehend his own need. He wants a teacher,-that is all. Not a deliverer; not a priest; not a healer; not a cleanser; not a renewer; only a teacher! Not a divine teacher; only a teacher come from God. God's provision for our need assumes that that need is unspeakably great; so great as only to be supplied by one who is divine; a divine teacher (or prophet), a divine priest, a divine king. Man shuts his eyes to this. He refuses to interpret the provision which God has made for him, and in that infinite provision, to read the nature and extent of his own need. He shrinks from the acceptance of a Saviour, not willing to see that he really needs one, or at least one that is divine. He thinks he can do with less than salvation; he cannot think himself wholly lost. Yet what is the meaning of God sending His own Son, if less than salvation was intended; if less than incarnation will do, less than blood, less than death, less than resurrection? Oh let us understand the greatness of God's provision for us, and in that greatness, read at once our death and our life, our condemnation and our deliverance. Jesus met Nicodemus at once with the necessity of being born again.  Mere teaching will not do; there must be the new birth; not a few new and good ideas, but regeneration! Nothing less. How this astounded the religious Jew Thou must be born again.

     Yet one thing in Nicodemus is praiseworthy. He came directly to Jesus, and dealt with Him face to face. So say we to every one. Go thou and do likewise.