Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night. He was a Pharisee which means that he was very devout in following the Old Testament Law. He was highly schooled in the scriptures and took his faith very seriously. Paul was a Pharisee. We often use the term Pharisee synonymously with hypocrite. Some of them were hypocrites because they claimed to be zealous for God but were actually in opposition to God’s plan in Jesus. Many Pharisees became Christians. We know about Nicodemus and Paul, but there were others at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. Nicodemus recognized that Jesus was a man of God and wanted to know more. He was drawn to Jesus. Why did he come at night? We can’t say for sure because John didn’t tell us. It might have been to be discreet. Until he found out more, he didn’t want anyone to know he was talking to Jesus. It might have been his only opportunity to speak to Jesus one-on-one privately. We don’t know. But John uses imagery with purpose. In chapter one he presents Jesus as the light from God coming into a world bound in darkness. In his discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus talks about light and darkness (verses 19-21). In John 3:30 Judas leaves the last supper to go betray Jesus. He went out into the dark. Here, Nicodemus is coming from the dark to see Jesus. We also see a progression in Nicodemus. In chapter 3, he comes to Jesus at night. Then in chapter 7, he defuses the Sanhedrin when they want to pass judgment on Jesus. Finally, in chapter 19, he publicly claims Jesus’ body with Joseph and puts him in the tomb.
Jesus didn’t have a canned speech. He interacts with each person according to who they are and where they are at spiritually. Nicodemus knows theology. He knows the scriptures. He lives an upright life. He just needs to have a personal encounter with God. He needs to be born again. Nicodemus lived by the Law to earn God’s favor. He knew that he would be judged by God based on his obedience. Jesus touched him at this point. Verse 16 – salvation comes from faith in Jesus. Verse 17 – Jesus was not there to judge, but to save. Verse 18 – judgment is based on belief in Jesus. Verse 21 – living to please God is not following a list of rules, but coming to Jesus.
When we come into the light, we leave the darkness behind. Being born again means becoming something new. Verse 21 – living by the truth is not accomplishing things for God, but recognizing what God accomplishes through us.
Article originally published Saturday, August 2, 2008