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WHO DO YOU SAY I AM? Just as was true in Jesus’ day, there are people today who say He was merely a great man and teacher, and others who believe He is the Son of God. In the Bible account and the movie, you see Nicodemus, a man you may identify with, searching for the truth of who Jesus really is—and ultimately the answer to the question Jesus asks of every one of us today: “Who do you say I am?” The purpose of these pages—like that of the Bible account and the movie—is to shine a light on the most riveting figure in human history and his important and life-changing mission and message. He has already changed the lives of millions of people, and he is still doing so today.


Dusk fell as the man navigated the warren of Jerusalem streets. It was a short walk to the house where the rabbi was staying, but Nicodemus had hesitated—and nearly turned back—several times. He gripped his expensive robe in his hands and lifted it, stepping over another foul puddle in the narrow lane. He shook his head, berating himself again for undertaking this fool’s errand. He was a Pharisee, a ruler among his people. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the elite council that governed the religious life of the Jews. He was wellknown and well-connected; he had a reputation to preserve. Yet here he was, seeking out the teacher from Galilee, the one called Jesus of Nazareth. He felt driven to learn more, to discover who this Jesus was—and why the answer seemed to be so important. He had seen the man on several occasions. Watched him. Listened. He even tried to trip up the teacher with a clever question once and had been amazed at his brilliant answer. He had long wanted to speak with him, but there was always a crowd around the man—and someone as influential as Nicodemus had to be careful. He arrived at the house and waited at the courtyard gate for several others in the street to pass by. He didn’t know them, but they might recognize him. Then, with a quick glance in both directions, he called out a greeting. He asked for the teacher and was told to climb to the open rooftop, where Jesus sat on a low stone wall. Jesus rose and respectfully greeted Nicodemus by name as he approached. In the calm, commanding presence of this man, Nicodemus momentarily lost the cool reserve he so carefully cultivated. He stammered out an awkward greeting. “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Nicodemus gritted his teeth. Those were not the words he had practiced. He had planned on being more circumspect. He knew that rumors swirled around the Nazarene, and many names and titles had been attached to him. He had been in the crowd that day by the Jordan River when John the Immerser had called this man “Lamb of God,” whatever that meant. He had heard Jesus refer to himself as “the Son of Man,” while in

Who Do You Say I Am?


some quarters he was whispered to be the Son of God, the Anointed One—the promised Messiah. It seemed ludicrous, of course, especially to someone like Nicodemus, a “teacher in Israel,” who sought redemption through adherence to the Law of Moses. Still, there was something about this man. Something disturbing, yet intriguing. Jesus smiled and gestured to the wall where he had been sitting. Nicodemus sat, and Jesus took his former seat. His eyes seemed to see past his visitor’s words and into his heart. He leaned forward and, with his elbows on his knees, spoke as if he knew the questions Nicodemus had been rehearsing. “I tell you the truth. Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus waited for a moment and then realized that Jesus had finished speaking. He shook his head and swallowed. “How…how can someone be born when they are fullgrown? It is not like I can enter a second time into my mother’s womb!” Jesus lifted his elbows off his knees and shifted positions, as if he knew that a long night of conversation lay ahead. “I tell you the truth: No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Nicodemus blinked. He heard the words as if they were riddles. Jesus held out his palm and rubbed his fingers together. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” He smiled again, and pointed to the branches of the trees, swaying gently in the breeze. “Don’t be so surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it likes. You hear it and feel it, but you can’t tell where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with those who are born of the Spirit.” With effort, Nicodemus tore his gaze away from Jesus’ searching eyes. He sighed loudly and spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness. “How…how can these things be?” Jesus nodded at his guest’s robes, which marked him as not only a wealthy man but also a Pharisee. “You are Israel’s teacher, and yet this is hard for you to understand?” Nicodemus was not offended; there seemed to be some barrier between him and this man, something that made Jesus’ words simultaneously beautiful and baffling to him.


Jesus continued. “I am only telling you the plain facts, what I know and what I have seen. Yet you find it so hard to hear and accept. If you have such a hard time when I speak to you of earthly things, how will you believe if I speak of greater things—the things of God? How will you handle it if I tell you about the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man?” And so it went, Jesus speaking of rebirth and Spirit life and the things of God, alternating between plain language and parable. Nicodemus was both mesmerized and mystified; he found Jesus the Nazarene both confusing and compelling. If there was a breakthrough moment in Nicodemus’s understanding, it was when Jesus alluded to an incident in the Torah, saying, “As Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that all who believe may find life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Nicodemus never tired, though they talked for hours. However, when the first light of morning tinted the eastern sky, he worried that if he delayed much longer, he might be seen leaving the house where the rabbi was staying. Word could get back to his powerful friends. He would face questions. Jesus spoke as if he read Nicodemus’s thoughts. “This is the sad truth: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light, because the darkness hides their evil deeds. Those who do wrong hate the light, and avoid it for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” He rose, and Nicodemus stood, too. Jesus smiled and, reaching out a hand, gripped Nicodemus’ hand. “But whoever lives by the truth walks boldly into the light, so that all may see that what they do is done in the sight of God.” The teacher’s words penetrated Nicodemus’s mind…and heart. He spoke a few hurried and halting words before leaving. But as he descended to the narrow street below, he felt something strange. Something warm. He lifted his face. The sky blazed with the light of that new day, as if reflecting what he felt. Perhaps it was the dawn of faith.

Who Do You Say I Am?


That story is based on the Bible’s account of Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus in John 3. The account ends with no mention of Nicodemus becoming a follower of Jesus. But John’s Gospel later depicts Nicodemus speaking up when the Sanhedrin moved to arrest Jesus (John 7:50-52) and reports that, after Jesus was executed, Nicodemus was one of two men who stepped forward to bury him. You may wonder if Nicodemus’s story has any relevance to you and your life. Maybe as you read the story, you found Jesus’ words about being born again to be beautiful…but baffling; you may find them hard to hear, and even harder to accept. Perhaps you aren’t sure you understand what Jesus said—or even who Jesus is, and why it matters. And yet you sense that it does matter. Like Nicodemus, you are willing to consider the question every human being will sooner or later have to answer: “Who is Jesus?” And: “When I have found the answer to that question, what will I do about it?” If you are at that point in your spiritual journey, then Nicodemus’s story is not so different from your story. And if that is the case, then you may be feeling the first glimmers of faith in your heart. Jesus is waiting for you—as he waited for Nicodemus. He is ready to receive you. He is anxious to welcome you. He endured a cruel death on a cross to make it possible for you to experience forgiveness of sins and new life by placing your faith in him and your future in his hands.


How do you do that? It can start by praying a simple prayer from your heart. It can be a prayer like this one: Jesus, thank you for coming to earth, for living a sinless life, and dying a cruel death so that i could experience forgiveness, eternal life, and a relationship with god through you. Please forgive my sins. Come into my heart. Make me new. Be my Savior and Lord and teach me how to follow you moment by moment and day by day, in everything i do. Amen.

Who Do You Say I Am?


For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.


RM1106499 12/13

John 3:17

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Son of God: Who do you say I am?  

Just as was true in Jesus’ day, there are people today who say He was merely a great man and teacher, and others who believe He is the Son o...

Son of God: Who do you say I am?  

Just as was true in Jesus’ day, there are people today who say He was merely a great man and teacher, and others who believe He is the Son o...