One by One – John 3:1-13

The next entry shared by Elder Bednar is found in John 1:1-13 where Christ meets with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. What is interesting is that this time the one is not a future Apostle but a man from a group that reviled the Saviour.

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

In this instance, the one came to be ministered unto. What is interesting here is that Nicodemus does not actually ask a question or state his desires. He approaches the Saviour but does not say what his question is. Does this mean he doesn’t know what his query is? Maybe he did know but he didn’t want to say? Or perhaps he was going to but he did not have the chance? Whatever the reason is, Christ speaks to him next…

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Christ spoke to this one and addressed his concerns. As we minister to the one we need to know them as the Saviour knows His Father’s children. Of course we will not be able to reach this level of knowing those whom we minister to in this life but we can aim to try and know them well. As we do this, the Spirit will be able to support us to know what it may be that they need, as the Saviour knew with Nicodemus.

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

What is interesting about the Saviour’s response here is that he listens to Nicodemus’s question and tries to answer it in a way where Nicodemus has to listen to the Spirit to be taught the answer. One thing that I am often suspect to is solving everyone’s problems. If I meet with someone and they have a concern, I feel like I want to solve it with them. However, once again, the Saviour’s way of ministering to the one is insightful. What is sometimes required is for us to enable to one being ministered to search the answer for themselves. We talk of self-reliance and this applies to spiritual matters and concerns as well as physical trials to overcome. The Saviour is leading Nicodemus to search the answer for himself.

9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

At this stage in the ministering to Nicodemus, it is clear that he is still not understanding the Master’s guiding questions. We can draw presumptions from the context – perhaps Nicodemus is struggling to follow the guidance from the Saviour as he (along with most of the leading members of the Jewish religion at the time) are more focused on letter of the law than the Spirit and is therefore not able to comprehend the Saviour’s meaning. There could be other reasons. However, the Saviour knows our Father’s children and he provides the response that He knows Nicodemus will best respond to.

10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Here the Saviour seems to reprimand Nicodemus about his apparent lack of understanding. To some this may seem like a harsh response. However, there is an important principle to learn again about ministering to the one. It is important that we get to know those we minister to so that we know what they best respond to. Once we do this we can truly minister effectively to the one and assist our Heavenly Father in His work.

The question may arise: how do we know that this answer was appropriate for Nicodemus? How do we know that he didn’t leave this experience bitter and became part of the large amount of religious leaders intent on causing the downfall of this self-proclaimed Saviour? The answer is that we find him in two later events of the same Gospel.

In John 7:50-52 we find him defending Jesus when others are discussing their opinions of Him:

50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)

51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

He clearly has been affected by this one-to-one experience with our Redeemer. He is trying to talk for the Lord amongst others of the Pharisees who would have him removed. Remember, this Nicodemus was a man of the Pharisees so he must have been impressed by the Saviour to at least defend him. However, does this mean that he was convinced of the Saviour’s divine mission? We read of more in John 19:38-40:

38 And after this Joseph of Arimathæa, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

Nicodemus – a man of the Pharisees – was not only defending the Saviour but after His death, he was part of a group that secretly sought to take the crucified Lord’s body and give Him a custom burial of His people when others of their culture would not allow it. Not only this, he provided the means for this to happen with expensive spices (one of the same gifts that were brought at the time of his birth by wise men who heralded his birth as a foretold King – a coincidence?). Clearly the Saviour had ministered to this one the way that had the biggest impact. We can learn a lot from the Saviour and his personalised ministering to Nicodemus – to this one.

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One by One Pattern – John 1:45-51

I have just begun to study Elder Bednar’s new book – ‘One by One’. I have only got through the first chapter so far but am finding it a great read!

Elder Bednar discusses a number of experiences that he and others have had where the Lord has directed their paths to meet with and share an edifying moment with one single individual, often when they were going about the Lord’s business to many other groups of ones. He speaks of an experience, for example, when he was repairing the roof of his home and he needed to go to the local DIY store to pick up supplies. Whilst there, he met with a man who recognised him and was able to share a great experience of talking with him for 15 minutes where they both were edified.

My plan is to discuss each scriptural section that Elder Bednar then shares in Chapter 2 which lists numerous examples from Christ’s life where he carries out His Father’s work to each individual, one by one. These were real eye-openers for me! With each of these Elder Bednar specifically doesn’t provide a commentary but allows the reader to consider the message of the verses for themselves.

The first is found in John 1:45-51 – Jesus Reveals Things to Nathanael

45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

To begin with, in verse 45 we read that Philip goes to find Nathanael after having been ministered to by the Saviour. This is the pattern from the first verse. Philip was a one and then he was invited to go and minister to other ones. Nathanael was one who needed to hear of the Lord. What was interesting here is that the phrase ‘Philip findeth Nathanael,’ seems to suggest that Nathanael was sought for purposefully. We do not know why Philip felt impressed to speak to this Israelite specifically but we can take a message from this. When we are taught by the Spirit, we must share this experience with others. However, we cannot just expect the Lord to do all the work for us, or for people to miraculously appear in front of us to share the Gospel with. We need to do our part – we have to seek and find those we can minister to as Philip did. We need to look for the one.

46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

Again, more principles of ministering to the one. Philip does not expect Nathanael to believe just in his word or testimony. He invites him to come and see. In this sense, he is inviting Nathanael to experience what he has experienced for himself.  Each one has to experience the Lord and His Gospel. It will not do to have one experience it and others to just accept it from their words. Each one must go into the baptismal waters, meet at the sacrament table, make (and keep) sacred covenants in the Temple one by one. Come and see.

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

I can see this becoming a familiar theme when the Lord Himself ministers to those in His mortal ministry. Jesus saw Nathanael approaching and knew Him. He knew His name and His character. Now, there is a level here that I haven’t considered before. In order for this observation to be made by Christ and it to be recorded at least one other must have been present to hear Him comment. This one or maybe these other ones would have been taught a valuable principle from the Saviour speaking these words. The Lord did not need to verbalise them. However, for those around Him, they learnt that He knows God’s children and who they are.

48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.

And again, the Lord demonstrates His omniscient power. To any observer who knew not the Lord’s origin or motives they may be tempted to assume Christ is demonstrating His ability in order to impress. However, there is a reason why Christ felt it necessary to show His ability in this moment. He is ministering to a one. Perhaps Nathanael had a little faith or curiosity that was then fuelled by this miracle or sign that He was able to recite to Nathanael where He had been.

49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.

51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

The Lord then concludes this meeting with this one by testifying to him that he will see more miracles through his fledgling faith. This soon-to-be Apostle needed to be refined and taught in a relatively short space of time and the Lord was able to minister to Him as a one in a manner that enabled him to develop and grow.