Nicodemus seeks the Lord
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God…”
John 3:1-2 (NKJV)
Many have wondered why Nicodemus, a high profile member of the Sanhedrin (the ruling council of the Jews in Jesus’ day), sought the good offices of Jesus by night. Could it be he was afraid his Pharisee colleagues might suspect him of showing an interest in Jesus as the possible promised Messiah? After all, he did greet Jesus with the words, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs [miracles] that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2).
It was not unusual for Pharisees to question Jesus during daylight hours in an attempt to trip him up in his speech and accuse him of blasphemy. It would appear that Nicodemus genuinely wanted to understand more of the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps seeking Jesus by night gave him the privacy and uninterrupted time to learn firsthand from the ‘teacher’ as Jesus was then known.
Discerning the man’s situation, Jesus surprises him with what has become a major Christian doctrine: the need to be ‘born again’+ (v.3). This statement from Jesus totally confuses Nicodemus, and Jesus patiently explains the spiritual aspect of the new birth. Jesus refers back to the Old Testament passage where the sinning Israelites were given ‘new life’ physically, after being bitten by poisonous snakes when they looked at the bronze snake Moses set up on a pole (Numbers 21:4-9).
The account doesn’t inform us that Nicodemus immediately accepted his need to be ‘born again’. He probably needed time to digest this new and challenging teaching of Jesus. Some time later, however, Nicodemus came to Jesus’ defence when the Pharisees were passing judgment on him before actually hearing him in their court proceedings (John 7:45-52).
One last mention of Nicodemus in John’s gospel is at a crucial stage of Jesus’ death. He appears publicly now, with Joseph of Arimathea (a fellow member of the Sanhedrin, and disciple of Christ), who is given permission by Pilate to remove Jesus’ body. Nicodemus contributes expensive spices to anoint Jesus’ body, in preparation for his burial in Joseph’s own tomb (John 19:38-42).
From this account it appears that Nicodemus did indeed become a disciple of Jesus and that he ultimately understood Jesus’ teaching regarding the need to be ‘born again’. Nothing more is recorded of Nicodemus in the scriptures, and one can only speculate what he went on to do as a believer and disciple of Christ. His account is testament to the saving grace of God, as he witnessed first hand the shed blood of Jesus for his own, and the world’s sins! (John 3:16).
Thank you heavenly Father, for the precious account of Nicodemus’s encounter with Jesus. Help us all experience this ‘new life’ that Jesus so willingly offers us, and the whole world. In his name, Amen.
Study by John Magowan
About the writer:
John Magowan attends the Lisburn congregation of
Grace Communion International, Northern Ireland.
Lisburn Grace Communion
Ballymacbrennan School House
129A Saintfield Road
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