Did Jesus Have an Encounter with Simon Cowell?
Reading: John 3
Most Americans know who Simon Cowell is – former lead judge on American Idol, now X-Factor. Eager to be affirmed, contestants audition in front of judges who then critique them. Simon’s insults are what make the show. His affirmation is rare but the most prized. Imagine a young upstart contestant singing magnificently, then as Simon begins to affirm his talent, he interrupts Simon to explain that Simon’s affirmation doesn’t interest him.
That may well parallel the situation we find in John 3. The end of John 2 sets up the story:
(23) Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. (24) But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people (25) and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (3:1) Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. (John 2:23–3:1 ESV)
Jesus would not entrust Himself to them and did not need man’s testimony about man (i.e. He did not need them to affirm Him) for He knew what was in a man. The implication is clear: Jesus knew the evil motives within the hearts of all. The very next line begins: “And there was a man…”. We are to recognize that the same evil motives that reside in all men reside in this man. Therefore Jesus does not need this man’s testimony concerning Him. Jesus had no interest in entrusting himself to Nicodemus; He did not need the testimony of the Jewish ruling council to affirm Him. But that is exactly what Nicodemus came to offer Jesus.
He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2)
Nicodemus came offering the testimony of the Jewish ruling council; testimony about Jesus. Nicodemus very likely expected Jesus to be gladdened by this turn of events. Who wouldn’t be? Everyone feared this council; their affirmation was the most prized. But Jesus knew exactly what was in Nicodemus and his accomplices back at the council. The Jewish ruling council would have done well to seek Jesus’ affirmation of them by coming into the light and allowing Him, the Light, to expose them (John 3:19-21). Instead they send Nicodemus at night.
Jesus immediately interrupts Nicodemus’ offer with a statement that gets right to the heart of their problem. Jesus essentially tells Nicodemus that he is blind and therefore cannot see the Kingdom of God. There is only one solution: He must be born-again (John 3:3). If they cannot even see the kingdom of God, how can they presume to be in charge of it? (John 3:10) (Imagine a contestant telling Simon Cowell, “You can’t sing and you are tone deaf.”)
Nicodemus is representing the council in an attempt to barter a deal with Jesus. The logical direction of the conversation from Nicodemus’ perspective would be something like this: “Now Jesus, we are willing to affirm publicly that you are indeed a man from God. We will give you ordination credentials and all! But there are a few things we need to discuss in order for this to work…” He would have then set the boundaries for Jesus’ ministry. There is only one problem: Jesus wasn’t subject to the Jewish Ruling Council, they needed to be subject to Him.
John the Baptist understood this. He was a great prophet of the Old Covenant and yet note how different His response to Jesus is.
(30) He must increase, but I must decrease.” (31) 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. (John 3:30-31 ESV)
The Jewish ruling council was not interested in decreasing. Nicodemus came looking to affirm Jesus, yet what Nicodemus and the council needed was for Jesus to affirm them (John 3:21). Nicodemus didn’t come for that and didn’t leave with that.
A big question for us, as we examine the Gospels, is whether or not we are coming to Christ to examine Him and judge Him – whether or not He is from God. We should not trust our judgment for it is faulty; faulty because of what is in us. We must be born-again. We must come that Christ might examine us and we must gaze upon Christ in order that we might receive eternal life (John 3:15-16).
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,