Jesus and Nicodemus lesson plan

This free, off-the-shelf, ‘Jesus and Nicodemus lesson plan’ is a real object lesson in Christianity.

The children will learn many lessons from the story of Jesus teaching Nicodemus.

This teacher’s copy of the Jesus and Nicodemus lesson plan is printer-friendly.

Monopoly game in progress. Jesus and Nicodemus lesson plan.
Jesus and Nicodemus lesson plan – Jesus came and properly explained the rules of life. By Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

1. Resources for Nicodemus lesson plan:

Print off ‘Rule cards and cut them into 6.

2. Starter for Nicodemus lesson plan:

I want you to imagine that you are playing a game of Monopoly, or Cluedo, or whatever your favourite game is.
You are playing the game with your normal friends or family, but there is one new person there who you don’t know.

Suddenly this new person says that the way you are playing the game is wrong!
Everyone else disagrees, but this new person picks up the rules of the game and proves that everyone is playing it incorrectly!
This rule was so important to the game, that it meant the game had to be abandoned because the new person had been following the correct rules and everyone else hadn’t.

I now want you to imagine another situation:
The little village of ………………… (Teacher’s note: a nearby village) has decided to drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Everyone else in the country drives on the left.
This doesn’t cause too many problems for the villagers because everyone knows.

But when the main roads through the village get busier with outside traffic, it becomes total chaos, and the roads get blocked with dented cars.
No one can move in or out of the village, because some cars are driving on the left, some on the right and they are meeting cars coming towards them, some on the left some on the right.
There is nowhere to move to.

But then a policeman walks into the village and says “Oi, why are you driving on the right? And you! And you! And you! You should all be driving on the left side of the road!”
But the villagers say, “No! We’ve all agreed to travel on the right, so it’s all these people who are wrong!”

Q. Who do you think is right?

Q. What do you think the Policeman will say?

The Policeman has got the authority and power of the Law, so he will enforce those Laws if people try to do anything different.
It doesn’t matter what they have agreed with each other.
The Authority making the Law has to be obeyed, if not the consequences will have to be paid for.

3. Main teaching for Nicodemus lesson plan:

We are now going to look at a situation at the time of Jesus.
Jesus Christ was like the Policeman walking into that village, or that new person turning up at the Monopoly game.
What Jesus said did upset the religious traditions and leaders.
We are going to find out why:

a) The religious leader’s laws and rules

The religious leaders of that time tried to follow all of God’s Laws and they had many laws of their own which had evolved over the years.
Some of their laws even contradicted God’s Laws!
So these were the sort of rules that the Religious Leaders were playing by:

(Teachers note: Show the card:
[1] ‘Religious Leaders Rule Card to get to heaven’ and read it out:
You have got to obey God’s rules, and any we make up as well: Don’t kill, steal, or lie, etc. Give money to the poor, do help people, etc. If you don’t, you will have to face God’s penalties.)

So in Jesus’ time, most of the people followed what the religious leaders said and they attended the Temple.

(Teachers note: Show the card:
[2] ‘Responding to Religious Leaders Card’ and read it out:
Okay, no problem. I’ll do all of that, I’ll avoid God’s penalties, and I’ll get myself to heaven! )

Most of the people trusted that these religious leaders knew the ‘rules of the game.’
But this was no game!
If these leaders got it wrong, then it would mislead millions of people who thought they were going to heaven.

b) Jesus had new rules

Suddenly there was a new person and the religious leaders didn’t know where he had come from.
Remember how we started the lesson, with the game of Monopoly and a new person was playing.

This new person, called Jesus, said that the religious leaders hadn’t understood the correct rules and that what they were doing was wrong!
There was an uproar! The religious leaders disagreed with Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t interested in the religious leader’s rules, He was only interested in God’s rules, which are the ‘Official Rules’.

Let’s illustrate in simple terms what Jesus was saying:

(Teachers note: Show the card:
[3] ‘The Official Rules Card to get to Heaven’ and read it out: You have got to obey God’s rules: Don’t kill, steal, or lie, etc. Give money to the poor, do help people, etc. If you don’t, you will have to face God’s penalties. But first, look at the ‘Official
Rules Information Card’. )

That was almost identical to what the religious leaders read out.

Q. What was different about what Jesus said?

Two things were different:

1) The religious leaders had put in, as an extra, about obeying any additional rules that they made up.
2) The religious leaders didn’t mention looking at an ‘Official Rules Information Card’.

I wonder what it says:

(Teacher’s note: Show the card:
[4] ‘The Official Rules Information Card’ and read it out:
The ‘Official Rules Card to get to heaven’ has to be obeyed, not just in your actions, but in your thoughts as well. So for example: You can kill someone in your thoughts, that would be breaking the rules. And what about all those times you should have helped someone and you just couldn’t be bothered? Again you are breaking the rules, and you will have to face God’s penalties. For advice take an ‘Official Rules Help Card’ )

Q. Have any of you killed anybody lately?

We would probably have answered “no” very quickly, so let’s change the question:

Q. Has anybody not killed anybody – ever – in their thoughts? !!

Perhaps we had better read the ‘Official Rules Help Card’

(Teachers note: Show the card:
[5] ‘The Official Rules Help Card’ and read it out: You won’t be able to obey all of God’s rules! Quite honestly you are going to fail and you won’t get to heaven unless God helps you! )

c) Jesus’ answer to the new rules

We had better quickly move to the ‘The Official Rules Response Card’

(Teachers note: Show the card:
[6] ‘The Official Rules Response Card’ and read it out: I agree that I have failed and will continue to fail the rules! I deserve to face God’s penalties! So I ask Jesus to help me and I believe that He will get me to heaven. )

Q. So what was the difference between what the religious leaders were saying and what Jesus was saying?

So to put it in a simple way:

  • The religious leaders were saying:
    You need to obey all the rules.
    Your own strength will achieve this.
  • Jesus was saying:
    You need to obey all of God’s rules.
    You need to surrender to him so that he will achieve it.

It was just like Jesus had picked up the official rules of the game, and had just proved that everybody was playing the game incorrectly!
But this was no game, Jesus was reading the ‘official rules’ out of the Scriptures, and he proved that most people had an incorrect view.

d) The religious leader’s response

The religious leaders verbally attacked Jesus, but they didn’t win any arguments, because he quoted from the Scriptures, which were the ‘Official rules’.
There were a few religious leaders who took Jesus’ teaching seriously, but they were having trouble understanding what Jesus was saying because their minds were so stuck in their religious traditions.
They were also afraid of what others would say about it, so they kept quiet.

e) The religious leader, Nicodemus, spoke to Jesus

But one of them, called Nicodemus, came secretly to see Jesus at night and said:
“Sir, we know that you are a Teacher sent from God. Your miracles are proof enough of this.”

[i] Nicodemus, you must be born again

Nicodemus must have been feeling fairly confident in his position as an important spiritual leader, so Jesus replied,
“I speak the Truth. Unless you are born again you will never see the Kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus was a religious leader and he thought he was heading towards the Kingdom of God.

Q. So how would Nicodemus have reacted to that?

He probably would have been very offended by that remark!
“Born again!” spluttered Nicodemus. “What do you mean? How can I, an old man, go back into my mother’s womb and be born for the second time?”

Jesus replied, “I speak the Truth. No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born again by the Spirit and Word of God. Human life can only reproduce human life, but the Spirit of God reproduces a spiritual life.”

Q. Do you agree that ‘human life can only reproduce human life’?

Or has your mum given birth to a hippopotamus or a giraffe lately?
So it would make sense that only the ‘Spirit of God reproduces a spiritual life.’

Q. But what does a ‘spiritual life’ mean?

Remember what Jesus had said to Nicodemus earlier.
He was talking about seeing and entering the Kingdom of God.
So a spiritual life is living within the Kingdom of God.

[ii] The kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God has a King, called Jesus, who is one of the three Persons of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And the Kingdom of God has willing people who want to serve their King.

Q. But how does anyone get this ‘spiritual life’ – how does anyone get into the Kingdom of God?

The answer is that God will give new spiritual life to any who turn to him.
God will get that person into the Kingdom of God, because ‘the Spirit of God reproduces a spiritual life.’

Jesus continued talking to Nicodemus:
“So don’t be surprised at my statement that you must be born again! The wind blows about but we’re never sure where it has come from, or where it will exactly go next. So it is with the Spirit of God, He gives spiritual life and no one can predict His movements.”
“What do you mean?” Nicodemus asked.

Q. Do you think Nicodemus was still feeling like a confident religious leader?

[iii] Jesus knows because he came from heaven

Jesus replied,
“You are a respected religious teacher, and yet you don’t understand what I am saying? I speak the Truth. I speak from what I know and from what I have seen, but you leaders still don’t believe Me. I have spoken about things that happen here on the earth, so how would you ever believe Me if I told you what happens in heaven? For only I, the Son of God, have come from heaven to earth and I will return to heaven again.”

Q. Which out of Nicodemus or Jesus, do you think knows what they are talking about?

Because Christians believe that Jesus is God, and had come down from heaven.

[iv] The bronze snake on a pole

Jesus then revealed the plan for getting people into the Kingdom of God:
He explained how Moses hundreds of years earlier in the wilderness, had obeyed God by making a bronze snake which he put on top of a tall pole.
The Israelites were being killed by many poisonous snakes, so when anyone was bitten by one they looked at the bronze snake on the pole, and because of their faith they were saved from dying. (Exodus 21:7-9)

Jesus then explained that He was going to be lifted up on a pole and in a similar way, anyone who looked to Him with faith would be saved and would receive eternal life.
Then He said:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave His only Son so that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:1-16 NIV

Q. What similarities can you see between the bronze snake and Jesus?

  • Both were lifted up on a pole for all to see. (Jesus was lifted up on a wooden cross).
  • Both gave life from death. (But the life Jesus gives is everlasting life in heaven).
  • Both required faith to believe that they would be saved from death.
  • Both were solutions provided for by God. He answered the need.

We don’t know how Nicodemus reacted to what Jesus said at this meeting, but a little later he tried to stop the rest of the religious leaders from being so hasty in judging Jesus. (John 7:50)

Then after Jesus was crucified, Nicodemus was one of two people who lovingly took Jesus’ body away from the Roman soldiers and laid His body in a tomb. (John 19:39)

Nicodemus with the dead body of Jesus made as stone statues. Jesus and Nicodemus lesson plan.
Nicodemus with the dead body of Jesus. Image by Dorothée QUENNESSON from Pixabay

4. Plenary for Nicodemus lesson plan:

  • So this new person, called Jesus, told the religious leaders that they didn’t understand the correct ‘official’ rules.
  • In fact, the rules they followed made it a totally different ‘game’.
  • Their understanding of the rules made it a totally different religion and one that was working against what God wanted.
  • Only a few of these leaders believed in Jesus and Nicodemus was one of them.

Q. Why do people believe different things?

Q. Why did the religious leaders at that time understand the rules

Q. How do the teachings of Jesus Christ give meaning and purpose to life?

Either take a short time to discuss these questions, or leave it with them.

(Teachers note: There is a Jesus and Nicodemus worksheet and Rule cards to accompany this lesson plan
Also see: What did Jesus do? RE resources).

5. Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Why is the story of Nicodemus important?

Nicodemus was an important religious leader who thought that he knew everything about getting to heaven, but Jesus had to shake him out of being reliant on himself.
Nicodemus would say: ‘Learn God’s law and work hard at obeying it.’
Jesus was saying ‘No, no Nicodemus, you will not get to heaven with your own strength because human life can only reproduce human life, but the Spirit of God reproduces a spiritual life. So, you need to look to God to save you.’

What does the bronze snake symbolise in the Bible?

1) In the Old Testament the bronze snake represented the very thing that was killing them:
The Israelites were being bitten by venomous snakes so Moses was told to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole and anyone who was bitten could look at it and live. (Numbers 21:8)
2) In the New Testament Jesus represents the bronze snake:
People naturally rebel against God and that bite of sin is death – being separated from God.
Jesus was raised up on a pole (the cross) and took upon himself all of humanity’s sins.
So God’s solution is for people to look at Jesus on the cross to be saved:
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man (Jesus) must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-16)