Consider Nicodemus. We can learn a lot from this man who is mentioned three different times in the New Testament. I’m sure you remember the account of Nicodemus going to Jesus at night and talking with Him:
“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” John 3:1,2
Let’s stop right there for a moment. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, which meant he was well educated, a teacher, and a man of some renown. He was a “ruler of the Jews”. I do not believe that he was a political ruler, but a spiritual one.
Now I don’t know about you, but I was brought up in the faith hearing that he came to Jesus at night because he was afraid of the other leaders of the Jewish people, and he did not want to be seen with Him. The Bible doesn’t tell us why he came by night, but only that he did. I think we are reading too much into this when we say he was afraid, and that there are other possible reasons he could have gone to Jesus when he did.
For instance, think about Jesus and what He did during the day. There were huge crowds all around Him, pressing in to get a look at Him, crying out to Him for mercy and healing, and then there were all the times He spent hours teaching the people. Not to mention, He prayed a lot. Sometimes Jesus sought solitude. So there were not a lot of opportunities to speak with Jesus one on one.
Remember Nicodemus was a spiritual leader. I believe that Nicodemus was a man that wanted time with Jesus! He wanted to talk to Him. Why? Look at the rest of this section. He actually acknowledges that Jesus has come from God. Nicodemus is a man of God himself, and he is trying to understand who Jesus is. He doesn’t have the revelation yet that Jesus is the Messiah, but he knows there is something special about this man that has done so many miracles. He knows that Jesus is from God.
This is a big step for a Pharisee. Then Jesus teaches him about what it means to be born again. At first he doesn’t catch the meaning, but who among us would, if we were in his position? This is new. This is radically different than anything Nicodemus has been taught before. Sometimes we look at people in the Bible as if they are dense or just plain stupid, because they don’t understand a deep spiritual truth, yet we do the same thing! How many times have you gone, duh now I get it!? Nicodemus asks a very valid question:
“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?’” John 3:4
Then Jesus teaches him some more about what it means to be “born of water and of Spirit”. This is exactly what Nicodemus needed to hear. He came to Jesus in order to talk to him one on one, so he could learn and understand. The Scriptures don’t tell us if he caught on right then, but he sure had a lot to think about and pray about. I believe he eventually did understand. We see indications of that in the other sections of Scripture that mention him.
This includes when the plot is being made by the leadership to falsely accuse and arrest Jesus.
“Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to Him earlier, said to them, ‘Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?’” John 7:50, 51
In other words, is this being fair? Nicodemus tries to use reason, but he finds his fellow rulers are not being reasonable. This was a big risk on his part but no doubt he felt the need to say something! He knew it was not right. He also attempts to use what he knows, which is, “our law”. He is appealing to their religious duty to consider what the law says about this, and yet again, he is not only shot down, he is ridiculed and half accused himself.
Now it is true that he may have been afraid here, but who among us would not be? Could he have done more to help our Savior? Yes. But he knew he was out voted, out gunned, and that even if he did more, it would most likely cost him his life, but it would still not stop this tide of hatred and the death of Jesus.
He was not there yet. Perhaps he was still praying about who Jesus was, or trying to figure out how Jesus fit into the plan of Israel. And then it happened – Jesus was dead. The man of God Nicodemus, cared about the Man of God Jesus. We see this after Jesus is taken down from the cross.
Joseph of Arimathea asks for the body of Jesus. We are also told:
“Nicodemus, the one who had first come to Him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds”. John 19:39
One hundred pounds of any spice is a heck of a lot of spice. Did he have that much spice just lying around? Maybe but that’s a stretch. He was a leader of the Jewish people so maybe there was a stockpile for funerals. More than likely though, he went and bought the spice. Everyone and his brother probably figured out who it was for. Everyone knew I’m sure that Jesus had been killed. And here was Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jewish people, going to help bury Him.
This one act shows that Nicodemus not only respected Jesus, but he loved Him. In his own way I think he was making a bold statement here. He was saying this is wrong. You condemned an innocent man and I was not part of this. Jesus was a man of God, and there was a tremendous amount of good in Him. In spite of the risk (and Nicodemus was still at risk) he was saying “I love Jesus”.
Did Nicodemus have a full revelation of who Jesus was? We don’t know, but here is what we do know:
- Nicodemus was a man searching for truth. He wanted time with Jesus to meet with Him and to understand more about Him. As a result he was given a deeply profound teaching of what it means to be born from above.
- Nicodemus was a man of principle. He wanted to follow God’s law and thought others should as well. He believed that what happened to Jesus was not right. This shows he was a man of good character.
- Nicodemus was a man of faith. He may not have understood everything, but he took the risk of publically declaring that he loved Jesus. He wanted to be of service to our Savior.
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