Introduction: Admit it. Sometimes you just feel lazy. Sometimes you
feel comfortable and don’t want to change. Sometimes change seems too
complicated. Sometimes change seems not to be worthwhile. Recently, I
have made some very big changes. After 30 years of litigation, I
started as a new teacher in law school. After decades, the Holy
Spirit broke through my logic to show an area of sin in my life. I
repented and changed. My work change has been costly. It costs me
much of my free time, it costs me a lot of money because I now have
to rent a second home. It costs me time with my wife. As I write this
I’m laying in bed with a physical injury that I doubt I would have
had at my old office. Is the change worth it? Oh, yes! Jesus’ call to
us as disciples is a call to change. Let’s jump into our lesson and
study a group of men who were reluctant to change and follow Jesus.

  1. The Scribe

    1. Read Matthew 8:18-20. This man volunteers to be a disciple
      of Jesus. Why does Jesus respond by talking about animals?
      (Jesus informs the scribe that He does not have a home.)

      1. What does Jesus’ reply have to do with the scribe’s
        offer? The scribe did not ask Jesus about living
        accommodations. (Jesus wants the man to see the full
        picture involved in this change. The scribe was
        probably delighted to hear the teachings of Jesus.
        But, before he impulsively changed to become a
        disciple, Jesus wants him to understand that this is
        not a luxury tour.)

    2. The Bible does not record how the scribe responded. What
      do you think, did he follow Jesus? (I doubt it. Jesus knew
      his heart and knew the scribe would decide the change was
      not worth while.)

  2. The Digger

    1. Read Matthew 8:21-22. This fellow had already made some
      sort of decision to follow Jesus because he is referred to
      as “another disciple.” Do you think Jesus is being a
      little harsh?

      1. The IVP Bible Background Commentary on the New
        Testament notes that one of the eldest son’s most
        basic responsibilities was to bury his father. Is
        Jesus telling this son not to honor his father by
        being sure the father is properly buried?

      2. Read Ephesians 6:2-3. Is Jesus opposing one of the
        Ten Commandments and the writings of Paul? (We should
        not assume the father is dead. The Jewish culture
        buries its dead immediately. If this fellow’s father
        had just died, he would not be hanging around
        listening to Jesus. Instead, the most likely story is
        that this disciple wants to wait to follow Jesus
        until after his father dies. This was an issue with
        Abraham. See Genesis 11:31-12:5)

  3. Nicodemus

    1. Read John 3:1. What does this tell you about the social
      status of Nicodemus? (He was a prominent fellow. A
      religious and political leader.)

    2. Read John 3:2. Nicodemus says nice things about Jesus, but
      does not reveal why he wants to meet. Why do you think
      Nicodemus wanted to have a private meeting with Jesus?
      Was he considering becoming a disciple of Jesus?

      1. Was Nicodemus considering a change in his life?

    3. Look at John 3:2 again. Should Jesus have been insulted or
      complimented by Nicodemus’ opening line? (This is a
      “damned by faint praise” problem. Nicodemus meant it as a
      compliment. But, it is a compliment for a prophet, not the

    4. Read John 3:3. Wait a minute! This verse starts out, “In
      reply Jesus declared.” How is this statement a reply to
      Nicodemus’ statement Jesus was from God?

      1. Step back from this just a moment. What reasons did
        you decide Nicodemus came to see Jesus? Did he show
        up to tell Jesus “we know you are a teacher from
        God?” (No. I doubt that handing out compliments to
        people he did not know was very high on Nicodemus’
        list of priorities. Nicodemus wanted to find out if
        Jesus was the Messiah. He wanted to find out if Jesus
        was the one to follow.)

      2. Now, let me ask again, is Jesus’ statement in verse 3
        a “reply?” (Yes. Jesus is “cutting to the chase.” He
        knows Nicodemus is there to find out more about the
        kingdom of God and Jesus’ role in it. Jesus goes
        straight to the point by saying “You must change. You
        are not part of the Kingdom of God unless you are
        “born again.” No need for us to be discussing the
        finer points of the Kingdom if you are not part of

    5. Let’s continue and add verse 4. Read John 3:3-4. Put
      yourself in Nicodemus’ place again. Would you be insulted
      by Jesus’ reply? (Irritated, if not insulted. Certainly,
      the conversation is not going the right way. You are a
      very important person. Jesus should be delighted to have
      a conference with you. Instead, Jesus seems to be
      questioning your adequacy. He says change is needed for
      salvation and discipleship.)

      1. Do you think Nicodemus is serious in his question?
        (It is so obvious that a person could not literally
        be born again. I think Nicodemus is being defensive.
        According to several commentaries, Nicodemus would
        have understood the need for a “new birth” for
        Gentiles who wanted to be converted to Judaism, but
        it would not make any sense for Jews. The suggestion
        would be particularly inappropriate for an important
        Jewish leader like him. He did not see that he needed
        to change.)

    6. Read John 3:5. Jesus now makes plain what He means by
      being “born again.” What is it? (To be “born of water and
      the Spirit.”)

      1. Do you think Nicodemus understood what Jesus was
        saying? (Read John 4:1-2. Since Nicodemus had been
        keeping up with Jesus’ miracles, he surely kept up
        with the reports of Jesus’ conversions. My bet is
        that Nicodemus knew that being “born of water” meant

    7. Read John 3:6. Would Nicodemus want to be baptized? (No.
      This would seem to be a huge admission he was unworthy. He
      was a religious leader, not part of the rabble. His proud
      heart would resist this. This is why “flesh gives birth to
      flesh.” Human hearts naturally resist the gospel.)

    8. Let’s touch base with the theme of this series –
      discipleship. Nicodemus believes he is on the right
      course, he is just looking for more information to
      determine if Jesus is the Messiah. Nicodemus wants to
      refine his Godly life. Instead, Jesus tells him he needs
      to change! This is not what Nicodemus expected to hear.

    9. Read John 3:7. What does this tell us about the way
      Nicodemus was looking at the moment? (He must have looked
      shocked, or Jesus would not have commented on his

    10. Read John 3:8. Is the Holy Spirit logical? (In God’s great
      Creation we see order. Therefore, I’m reluctant to say
      that part of the Godhead is not logical. However, this
      text at least says the Holy Spirit is not predictable by
      humans. The Holy Spirit does what it wants, humans can
      sense the Spirit’s presence, but they cannot tell if the
      Spirit is coming or going.)

    11. Read John 3:9-10. Can you sympathize with Nicodemus? He
      wants to know why logic and obedience are insufficient!

      1. Israel’s teacher did not understand this idea of
        being “born again” into discipleship involves baptism
        and regeneration(rebirth)by the Holy Spirit. Do you
        understand this? (Simply knowing the Bible and
        following the rules is not enough. It is the Holy
        Spirit that brings us to repentance. Forgiveness
        comes from the unmerited grace of God. We cannot earn
        these things. Pride is a barrier to accepting these

      2. What new approach to making disciples do we find in
        this encounter with Nicodemus?(All the logic in the
        world and all the insight into human behavior, will
        simply not convert the heart. It is all “flesh.” The
        essential ingredient is the Holy Spirit.)

    12. Read John 3:14-16. Why would Jesus compare Himself to a
      snake – the first symbol of evil (see Genesis 3)? Except
      for the “lifting up” analogy to the cross, doesn’t this
      comparison seem all wrong? (Just like the people needed to
      look at the serpent, so we need to face our sins. We need
      to face the fact that we need to change. In Luke 13:3
      Jesus tells us that unless we repent we will perish.)

    13. Friend, even if you are an honored religious leader you
      may not understand discipleship. You may not understand
      the change that needs to come in your life. Through the
      power of the Holy Spirit we come face to face with our
      sins, acknowledge them, repent of them and change. Will

  4. Next week: Gender and Discipleship.