Resurrection House Blog: Nicodemus in All of Us
Nicodemus in All of Us
Each of us has a bit of Nicodemus in us, I think.
Nicodemus was a smart guy; a scholar, most likely, and a leader of the Jews. He was a Pharisee, which has an incredibly negative connotation, but the impression that is given is that Nicodemus heard about Jesus, and simply had to see for himself what was going on. The impression that is given is that Nicodemus is yearning for something that he cannot precisely explain.
Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, the Gospel reads, and he was set on asking Jesus questions. Already things are not as clear as they seem. Why did Nicodemus come by night?
There are a few different interpretations. Many believe that Nicodemus was hiding who he was, that he was ashamed that he was asking questions of this crazy new prophet, Jesus. If that is the case, however, he was singularly unsuccessful, considering people recognized him enough to name him specifically.
Perhaps, as some people believe, Nicodemus was there to spy on Jesus for the Pharisees, as happens in other places in the Bible. This is also unlikely; the language Nicodemus uses is simply not appropriate for a non-believer to use; “We know you are a teacher who comes from God.”
Another interpretation is that Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus, and that at night was the only time Nicodemus could get through the crowd. Jesus had just performed his first miracle, the turning of water into wine, and had just driven the money lenders out of the temple. I can’t imagine people not crowding around him and hearing him teach, to hear him speak.
Regardless of the reason, Nicodemus came by night, which in the Gospel of John is not just speaking of the time of day. John’s Gospel starts off with the famous words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The spirit of God moved over the waters like a wind, creating the world.
By the fourth verse of chapter one, John has called Jesus the Light. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it,” says John. This is a recurring theme throughout John’s Gospel; that Jesus is the light, and it is possible that every instance of light or of darkness mentioned in this Gospel is intentional and is a reflection of the light of Jesus.
So Nicodemus comes in the night to Jesus. As one in the Darkness, Nicodemus does not understand, is currently unable to understand what Jesus is talking about. After declaring that Jesus must be from God, as “no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God,” Jesus says that no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.
Have you heard the term, born again Christian? I’m sure that you have, and that idea actually comes from this verse. “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” In Greek, the word for from above has two meanings; it can also mean born anew.
We need to read that passage with both meanings in mind in order to fully appreciate what it is that Jesus is saying.
“No one can see the kingdom of God without being born anew from above.” You can practically hear Nicodemus’s agony as he asks the next question. “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born again?”
Nicodemus is more than a little distressed. I can imagine him being exhausted with his spirituality, finding it stale, searching for answers he is unable to find. When he finally hears about someone who is clearly from God, he CANNOT GET A STRAIGHT ANSWER FROM HIM.
Jesus, our ever more confusing Savior, does little to relieve Nicodemus’s confusion. Jesus says you must be born of water and Spirit; that the wind blows where it chooses, and while we can hear the sound of it, we cannot know where it goes to or where it comes from. There’s that wind again; the same wind that moved over the waters and formed creation.
Nicodemus’s retort is absolutely priceless. “Huh?”
How often are we left just as confused? This world is broken; there is hate and suffering. Why God? Why is there sickness, is there pain, is there hunger, why do we yearn for things that we cannot find, yearn for something we cannot express. why Why WHY?
Very truly, Jesus says, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen. No one has ascended into heaven except the Son of Man who descended from Heaven. No one can understand until we have experienced the Spirit in a way that we cannot here on earth experience it.
Yet there is hope, Jesus says. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” In fact, Jesus goes on to say, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through the Son.
We do not know if Nicodemus was satisfied by the answers that Jesus gave him. We do know that Nicodemus later defended Jesus in front of the chief priests and other Pharisees, and with Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’s body in linen and myrrh after the crucifixion.
Nicodemus knew that his life was missing something, and went to Jesus to see if the answers were there. He certainly got answers, but not necessarily the ones he was looking for.
Nicodemus was frustrated with Jesus. Nicodemus has all of these really solid questions, he found out how to meet up with Jesus, and Jesus won’t give him an answer he can comprehend.
Nicodemus was filled with doubt, but Nicodemus chose to follow Christ anyway, even if everything was confusing and slightly unclear.
I think there is a little of Nicodemus in all of us.
As I was reading information about Nicodemus, I came across a poem by a gentlemen named Andrew King. I absolutely love it, and I encourage you to read Heart Becoming Morning.