By Curt Darling
Who was Nicodemus? Reading through John 3 we see that he was a Pharisee who had a curiosity about the Lord Jesus. Others of that same ruling class probably had questions about Him, but they were not apparently interested in finding out the truth. Do you want to know the truth, the real truth?
Nicodemus was a man of reputation as a ruler of the Jews, yet he came to Jesus by night so as to not damage it. Many people do the same thing. Rather than being open about their interest in Christ they seek to keep their standing in their social circles, whether in their family, friend, school or work settings. Could this be a lesson for us as well?
This Pharisee had been noticing Jesus and admitted that He was a “teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him” (v.2 KJV). Jesus’ response, recorded in the next verse, was likely unexpected by Nicodemus: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This was something Nicodemus could not understand, so he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?”
Jesus told Nicodemus that a man had to “be born of water and of the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:26 tells us that water is representative of the Word of God. We are only born again by the work of the Word of God and Spirit of God in our hearts, minds and lives. Our natural birth was one of flesh, following in the line of Adam, but to be born of the Spirit means new life in Christ! Like the wind, one cannot see the Spirit, but its effects are very evident. Does this seem to be too much to grasp?
It was for Nicodemus at the time. Jesus rebuked him because as a teacher in Israel and knowing the Scriptures he should have known better. But the Lord patiently continued, speaking of descending, ascending and being in heaven. The Lord Jesus is God. Do you believe that?
Jesus gave an illustration from the written Scriptures in that day (Num. 21:4-9) to help Nicodemus understand. When the nation of Israel wandered in the wilderness, they complained about the manna God gave them to eat. The wandering they experienced, to begin with, was their own fault as they had not followed Him by faith. Are you wandering through life because you haven’t trusted Him? The manna, which the people said they “loathed,” pictured the Lord Jesus and the provision of life He gives through Himself (see Jn. 6:50). How dared they abhor it and, in type, the Son?
This attitude angered God then as it does today, and it demanded judgment. Serpents appeared, biting the complainers; and many people died. Through this the people still living recognized that they had sinned against the Lord something that death still tells us now and they asked Moses to pray for them. Instead of acting for yourself, are you trying to be saved from God’s judgment through the faith of a godly person you know?
As an intercessor, Moses prayed for them, but that was not sufficient to keep them from this judgment of death, nor is it today. The Lord told Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (Num. 21:8). A person realizing death was coming had to, by faith, turn toward that pole and simply look at that serpent. That person would then live. It worked because God said it would. The fiery serpent on the pole, the Lord revealed to Nicodemus, was a picture of Himself: “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus works today too! Do you believe?
Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will not perish. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:16-17). Jesus continued by telling Nicodemus that a person who believes is not condemned; but the one who does not believe is condemned already. The Lord was the light that came into the world. Unbelievers hated that light for it revealed their evil, but believers came to the light. Don’t you think that Nicodemus was touched by what Jesus said?
Turning to John 7:44-52 we read of how the Pharisees sought to take Jesus. But the officers they sent to do so returned without Him, reporting that “never man spake like this man.” In the course of the ensuing discussion, Nicodemus said, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” Do you want to hear what Jesus said and did?
The Son of Man was lifted up just as was the serpent Moses had made in the wilderness. As Nicodemus saw the Lord Jesus on the cross he must have remembered the first conversation they had had in secret. This Pharisee believed; have you?
Later, John 19:38-42 tells us how Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took care, at their own expense, of the body of their Savior. They placed it in a sepulchre and wrapped it in linen cloths with a large amount of myrrh and aloes. This was in keeping with the Jewish custom. But there is more to this story, for to touch a dead body, according to the law of Moses, was to become unclean and would keep them from celebrating the Jewish Passover, a most important feast, held then. In effect, these men who had followed the Lord secretly, now in a very public way, separated themselves from religion to be attached to the Lord Jesus Christ. They knew who He was and what He did. So, they believed and acted in faith to the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ God Himself. When you look at yourself with this in mind, do you see anything like this in your life?