The Bible provides three brief glimpses of the life of Nicodemus, a member of an influential Jewish religious group called the Pharisees. His story strikes a chord with many of us who have journeyed from darkness to light.
Nicodemus first appears in John Chapter 3 when he secretly visited Jesus after dark one evening. His fellow Pharisees were deeply offended by Jesus and Nicodemus apparently feared that they would disapprove if they found out about his visit. He enjoyed privilege and status as a Pharisee and it would have been costly to fall out of favour with his peers.
One of the things the Pharisees hated about Jesus was that he healed people on the Sabbath, which according to them broke the religious law against working on the Sabbath. They also hated the fact that many people were following Jesus because of his miracles.
Nicodemus, however, sensed God's hand in the miracles. During his secret meeting with Jesus he said: "We all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you."
Jesus' response to Nicodemus was amazing. He ignored Nicodemus' cowardice and reluctance to let go of his old life, but respected the tentative but genuine spiritual hunger that he saw within his heart. He told Nicodemus that he needed to be spiritually reborn and he told him that "God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Isn't it incredible that the tentative, undercover Nicodemus was the first to hear the words of John 3:16, considered by many to be the most famous and most loved verse in the Bible? Could it be that Jesus knew that the deep, resonating truth of those words was exactly what Nicodemus and millions more like him in the future would need to hear in order to nurture their glimmer of faith? Like Nicodemus many of us saw or heard something that sparked an interest in Jesus long before we were ready to give up the lifestyles which gave us our sense of identity and community. And for many of us the verse about a God who loves us and invites us into a relationship with his son who came to redeem us, was a significant beacon in our journey from night to day.
The second time that we meet Nicodemus in the Bible is in John Chapter 7 when his fellow Pharisees were plotting to arrest Jesus in order to kill him for what they considered to be blasphemy. Nicodemus showed a little more boldness this time by speaking up and asking the other Pharisees: "Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?" He was rebuked for his trouble. Was the Gospel message that Jesus had shared with him taking root in his heart?
By the time we encounter Nicodemus for the third and final time in scripture, the Pharisees and other Jewish religious leaders had got their way and Jesus had been nailed to a cross where he died. It was a frightening time for disciples of Jesus, most of whom were lying low for fear of persecution. In John Chapter 19, we read that Joseph of Arimathea, who is described as a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders) got permission from the Roman governor Pilate to take the body of Jesus down from the cross. We read that Joseph and Nicodemus took the body of Jesus away and buried him in a tomb in a nearby garden. This took great courage. Nicodemus had finally crossed from night to day. I am sure he was among the hundreds of people who later saw the resurrected Jesus and among the believers who became the early church when they were empowered by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and he still shows grace to all inquirers who follow in the footsteps of Nicodemus, weighing the cost of discipleship, whether it is a trivial cost like personal pride or a high cost like persecution. If you are visiting Jesus at night may you hear and be emboldened by the great promises of scripture such as John 3:16.
Andre Viljoen is a freelance Christian writer from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Visit his blog www.amazinglove.co.za for more devotionals, inspiring true stories and poetry. He is available for writing/reporting assignments.
(C) Andre Viljoen 2010 - All rights reserved
Use freely with acknowledgem
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