Nicodemus models for us, that even though it may cost us our wealth and status, the life we know…by following Jesus in a hostile culture, by allowing that spark of faith to grow in our hearts, we too can be born again of the Spirit, see the Kingdom of God and gain eternal life. Is there anything more valuable than that??
Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born[c]from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again?
John 3:1-4 1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.[b] 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born[c]from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again?
This encounter takes place just before the account of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well. There are a few very stark contrasts that stand out to me. First, the difference in social status. Unlike the foreign, unnamed, outcast woman, Nicodemus is identified. He is an elite Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of the day. He was powerful, wealthy, and popular.
The woman came out in the brightest hour of the day to draw water to quench her physical thirst, not seeking a theological debate. Unlike the woman, Nicodemus had a lot to lose by being seen with this revolutionary man Jesus who was upending his comfortable religious traditions. Unlike other Pharisees who tried to trick or publicly humiliate Jesus, Nicodemus quietly sought out Jesus under the cloak of darkness to ask questions about Jesus real identity prompted by a spiritual thirst…. I am reminded of Jerimiah 29:13 13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.
The last thing that stood out to me was the difference in response. Immediately, the woman left her water jar behind and ran to tell all her towns people about this man she met. We are not told the effect of Nicodemus’ secret encounter in this story, however, we later read in John 7:45-52, that Nicodemus defended Jesus when the chief priest wanted to arrest Jesus. Later, in John 19:39-42, that Nicodemus came to the cross to take away the broken body of Jesus with a generous amount of myrrh and aloe, enough for a royal burial. He joined Joseph in preparing Jesus’ broken, disfigured body according to Jewish custom for burial.
These few passages lead me to believe that Nicodemus indeed went from stale religious tradition, to a vibrant new life in the Spirit. He was willing to have his long-held beliefs and understanding shaken loose by his encounter with Jesus that night. He was able to acknowledge that the inner transformation needed could only come from the life in the spirit of which Jesus spoke. Not from the strict adherence to rules and statutes he had followed since childhood and therefore, a new relationship with God, one in which God is in control. That can be difficult for those of us that feel a need to order our world, be in control, accomplished…It is a scary thing in the beginning to let go and allow the Spirit of God to direct us.
Nicodemus models for us, that even though it may cost us our wealth and status, the life we know…by following Jesus in a hostile culture, by allowing that spark of faith to grow in our hearts, we too can be born again of the Spirit, see the Kingdom of God and gain eternal life. Is there anything more valuable than that?? I think not…There is more to this life than this life I tell my kids.
Is there a new invitation for you as you consider the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus? Where are you in your journey with Jesus?
Leon and I would love to see you at a very special evening we are creating for you next week. An invitation to journey with Jesus to the Cross and prepare our hearts for a fresh encounter with Him. We will meet in the chapel February 22 at 7 pm. Hope to see you all there!!