Nicodemus and Jesus part 1

by John Thomas Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin mentioned in three places in the Gospel of John.
Nicodemus Feast Day: August 2 (Eastern Orthodox Church & Byzantine-rite Catholic Churches) August 3 (Roman-rite Catholic Church).
Died: Judea
Born: Galilee
Attributes: Pharisee
‎Gospel ·
Q1 - Who Was Nicodemus in the Bible & Was He Saved?
Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish sect of influential Pharisees and a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. Nicodemus held the prominent position as ruler of the Pharisees, an enormously powerful position. He was a wealthy man of power and status who came to Jesus at night with a question.
Pharisees pledged to obey all traditions and laws down to the smallest detail. However, they became arrogant because of their belief that they were the only ones able to interpret the word of God. (For Jesus's opinion on the Pharisees, see Matthew 23)
We met Nicodemus when Jesus' public ministry was beginning.
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with Him.'" John 3:1-2 NIV.
Why Did Nicodemus Approach Jesus at Night?
Scripture does not tell us, but several reasons have been imagined:
•Was he simply an inquisitive, curious seeker interested in Jesus' teaching and ability to perform miracles?
•Was he afraid to come in the daylight for fear of being seen with Jesus? He might have lost his position, wealth, and status if he had come to see Jesus of his own free will. The fierce opposition to Jesus by the Jews was already growing daily.
•It was Passover. Perhaps he wanted to wait until dark when the crowds had thinned and Jesus had finished teaching?
•The Sanhedrin sent a delegation to investigate John the Baptist (John 1:19-20). Did Nicodemus go to Jesus as their representative to investigate and question Jesus?
•Did Nicodemus have a longing to discern if Jesus could be the long-awaited Messiah?
"Was he saved?" is answered by his actions after the conversation with Jesus on the night he came to Jesus. (taking Jesus down from the cross, placing Jesus in his tomb, losing his fear of being recognized as a disciple of Jesus, etc.)
‎ Nicodemus and Jesus
Jesus responds to Nicodemus' statement and gets right to the heart of the matter:
"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." v3 NIV. (Born again translates "born from above" in Greek.)
Nicodemus is confused when Jesus explains that being born again means being born of the Spirit. "How can this be?" (v9) he asks.
Nicodemus takes Jesus' words literally and questions a physical rebirth. He believed his status as a Jew meant he was born directly into the kingdom of God. It made no sense to him that there was another way to heaven.
Jesus expresses amazement that Nicodemus, a brilliant teacher of vast knowledge, failed to understand the Scripture's meaning regarding being born of the Spirit. Nicodemus should have known of God's promise of spiritual rebirth- "I will put my Spirit in you "- from Ezekiel 36:26-27.
However, Jesus perseveres with Nicodemus.
Q2 - Meaning of Nicodemus' name
The name Nicodemus (Nikodemos) is comprised of two parts; the first "Nike," which means victory, and the second part, "demos," which means people or ordinary people. Therefore, his name could mean "victory of the people" or "victor among the people."
Q3 - Appearances in the book of John
The story of Nicodemus only appears in the following three chapters of the Bible in the Gospel of John.
• John 3:1-21 - Nicodemus meets Jesus secretly
• John 7:43-53 - Nicodemus questions the Pharisee's actions against Jesus
• John 19:38-42 - Nicodemus helps take Jesus down from the cross.
Each time Nicodemus is mentioned in the Bible, he speaks and acts bolder for Christ. In John 3, he only secretly visits Jesus to seek information, while in John 7, Nicodemus speaks up in Jesus' defense. Lastly, in John 19, Nicodemus is no longer intimidated by the Pharisees and takes physical action to help remove Jesus from the cross. The following outlines Nicodemus' actions and response to Jesus.
Q4 - Meeting Jesus secretly
Nicodemus first appears in the Bible in John chapter 3 when he desires to know more about Jesus and His teachings. As an introduction, Nicodemus complements Jesus saying, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him" (John 3:2). Jesus ignores his compliment and immediately shifts the focus from Himself to Nicodemus and his spiritual condition. Jesus proceeds to tell Nicodemus that he must be born again.
Nicodemus questions the reality of being born again and going back into his mother's womb a second time. Jesus does not argue about this, but restates his previous point, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Nicodemus again says, "How can these things be" (John 3:9).
Jesus tenderly asks Nicodemus; how can you be a teacher and not understand these things? Jesus says, how can I tell you heavenly or spiritual things if you do not even understand the earthly things I say?
Jesus again changes the topic to Moses and Old Testament history, which Nicodemus would have been familiar with from his youth. Jesus explains that just as Moses lifted the bronze serpent in the wilderness to heal those who believed, the Son of Man must also be lifted on the cross so that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life. (See John 3:14-15.)
This sets the stage for one of the most famous verses in the Bible, John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Jesus is showing Nicodemus that the kingdom of God is not built upon political power and might but rather on the unselfish, sacrificial love of God that culminates in the salvation of man and everlasting life.
Furthermore, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that God did not send Jesus to condemn and judge the world but save the world from its sin. (See John 3:17.) Jesus concludes His talk with Nicodemus by stating, "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light...But he who does the truth comes to light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (John 3:19, 21).
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
Jesus reminds Nicodemus of the Old Testament story of Moses and the Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21:4-8).
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." v14-15.
As the bronze serpent was lifted up on a pole, all who looked upon it and believed would not die but live. This story foreshadows the cross.
Jesus told Nicodemus that He would be lifted up (on the cross) like the bronze serpent to save the people from eternal death.
Jesus then gives Nicodemus the incredible truth about God's plan for salvation in simple terms that remain one of the most well-known and revered Bible verses:
"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." v16.
That appears to end this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, but we see Nicodemus again twice.
Q5 - Nicodemus' defense of Jesus
The second time John writes about Nicodemus is when the Jewish leaders desire to seize Jesus. However, Nicodemus halts their actions by questioning their motives by saying, "Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?" (John 7:51). The Pharisees respond with a personal attack against Nicodemus, saying, "You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee" (John 7:52).
Although Nicodemus does raise a verbal question in defense of Jesus, he is not yet openly a full-fledged follower of Jesus. However, In Nicodemus' next appearance, things change, and his full support is on the side of Jesus the Messiah.
Q6 - Nicodemus' at the cross
Finally, after Jesus' death, Nicodemus boldly and publicly removes Jesus' body from the cross and helps lay it in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. Nicodemus also provides approximately 100 pounds of costly spices for Jesus' burial.
Nicodemus now is no longer acting in secret. He is fully supporting Jesus and His cause. He has gone from a silent searcher at night to a verbal defender, finally a bold follower who physically takes action to honor Jesus, his Lord, and Master. Some accounts even mention Nicodemus' gifts and actions, helping the early Christian church grow amidst persecution.

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