As darkness envelops the ancient city of Jerusalem, a man paces nervously about his bedchamber.
Frequently, he goes to the window, as if expecting to see a figure in the shadows watching him.
Finally, he kneels to pray, but his mind wanders.
Unable to pray, he stares blankly off, as words keep flying through his mind:
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God…”
“Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“…you are in danger of hell fire” echoes in his ears.
“Be perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect.”
As we look around the room, we notice the unmistakable signs of wealth & privilege.
A gold ring rests on the mantle.
On the kitchen table, you see rare & imported fruit cradled in a finely crafted bowl.
Paper & ink sit perched on a desktop, waiting for the fingers of a skilled & educated person to use them.
Next to the door there is a robe on a hook.
The robe bears the insignia that designates that this man was not just a member of the Pharisees, but one of the rulers of the Pharisees, a member of the Sanhedrin.
A man bred to learning.
A man associated with status & power.
Let it not be said that all of Christ’s followers were unlearned & poor.
Consider Luke the Physician, as well as Paul, a scholar among scholars.
If anyone should know how to pray, it ought to have been this man.
As time creeps slowly by, there is more pacing, more thinking & more frustration.
Finally, he puts on his sandals & robe & timidly steps into the dark street.
He pauses for a moment to see if he is being watched or followed.
When he believes no one has seen him, he muffles his face in his cloak and steals along in the shadows.
Even in the torchlight, it is easy to see that this is a wealthy side of town.
This man moves across Main Street & heads into a poorer section (less austerious) of town.
This part of town is not likely a place where this man has had business or friends.
At the door of a small house, he stops, looks over his shoulder & knocks.
The door opens & he steps into a dimly lit room.
This man came to Jesus at night
As the door swings open, we see Jesus, the radical, young preacher from Galilee along w/several other men, His disciples.
Whoever might have been with Jesus that night surely must have been in shock as they saw Nicodemus walk through the door…
For Nicodemus was one of the most powerful men in Jerusalem.
The disciples had reason to fear this man.
The word had already gotten out: Jesus must die for His claim to be God’s Son.
Only hours before, Jesus had driven the moneychangers out of the temple (John 2:14 16).
He had over-turned tables & challenged the authority of the religious leaders.
Was Nicodemus there to arrest them?
Was Nicodemus there to put them to trial & possibly to death?
Don’t you kind of wonder how Nicodemus was able to find Jesus that night?
Jesus had no permanent home or address.
He slept wherever He was able to lay His head.
II Corinthians 8:9 “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.” (NLT)
Do you think Nicodemus had been in the crowd that day & heard Jesus preach?
Maybe Nicodemus followed Jesus to see where He was staying in case he wanted to talk to Jesus privately…
I’m just glad that Nicodemus decided to go to Jesus while there was time & while Jesus could still be found!
Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near.” (NLT)
Why did Nicodemus go to Jesus under the cover of night?
Perhaps it was an act of prudence & discretion & consideration…
Nicodemus may not have wanted to have interrupted Jesus during the day when He had been teaching & ministering to the crowds.
Perhaps Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because he just wanted to learn more.
For you see, nighttime was considered to be a time free of distraction & disturbance.
Nighttime was considered the best time of the day for discussion, thought & philosophy because when the sun went down work would generally come to a halt.
So with no electricity or TV or internet, people would gather & talk around the light of a fire.
Perhaps one of those were the case…
but it seems more likely that Nicodemus went @ night out of fear, caution & cowardice.
I kind of think that Nicodemus was afraid to be seen with Jesus in the light of day because he was a religious leader.
The position & power he held would have made a public conversation with Jesus…
Let just say… complicated…
After all, what would people think?
What would his friends in the Sanhedrin think?
Perhaps Nicodemus’ night visit was a combination of all of these things.
Let’s take a look at… the conversation between Christ & Nicodemus
Nicodemus opens up the conversation with blurting out what is on his mind before Jesus even speaks to him.
John 3:2 “‘Rabbi’, he said, ‘we all know that God has sent You to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with You.’” (NLT)
Nicodemus knew who Jesus was & what He could do.
But, isn’t it interesting that he used the plural “we”?
Isn’t it interesting that we use the word “we” when we really mean me?
A friend of mine was in charge of a work area & a guy came to him & said that the “boys out back” had an issue about something.
He went out back & started talking to people individually & after talking to 4 different guys, none of them knew what he was talking about.
So the issue was really with that one guy, but the one guy didn’t want to say it was a problem he was having, so he said “the boys out back” have an issue!
I think Nicodemus was saying, that others also knew who Jesus was & what He could do, but at this moment… it was just Nicodemus & Jesus…
At this moment, the opinions of others do not matter.
When it comes to Jesus, it doesn’t matter what your friends or family or your pastor says about Jesus… but what do you say about Jesus?
Is Jesus real? Is all of this true?
I want to tell you that we can’t get into heaven on someone else’s ticket!
Your Mom & Dad, Aunt or Uncle have their own one-way ticket to heaven.
Each of us will stand before God & be judged not on our deeds, bank account size, social status or education, but each of us will be judged on the condition of our heart.
When Jesus responds, He does 4 interesting things:
- 1st of all Jesus moves Nicodemus from “we” to “he” & Jesus says, “You must be born again.”
- Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge what Nicodemus had just been talking about & gets to the heart of the matter… which is the matter of the heart…
- Jesus gives an answer to a question that Nicodemus was thinking but had not said.
Jesus answered the very question that Nicodemus really wanted to ask & it was the question that had brought him there that night.
Jesus had a huge advantage… He knew what people were thinking & He knew what their motivation was & so He knew exactly how to approach a conversation… so Jesus was always able to take a unique approach with each person…
I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of glad I don’t always know what people are thinking when I am talking to them…
- Jesus answers in the strongest, most vehement manner.
“I tell you the truth” (NLT)
“Most assuredly” (NKJV)
Nicodemus hadn’t asked a question, but Jesus responded so strongly to let him know that:
Even though Nicodemus knew all about Jesus, he was not saved.
Dear ones, we can know the Bible frontward & back & still not be saved.
Even though Nicodemus was a deeply religious man, he was not saved.
We can be a church member, talk & dress all the right ways & still not be saved.
Even though Nicodemus was a rich & powerful man, he was not saved.
We can have all that the world affords & still not be able to buy our way into heaven.
Even though Nicodemus was scholarly & educated, he was not saved.
We can be the sharpest knife in the drawer & still be dull in the things of God.
Knowledge, religion & good deeds will not be enough… you must be born again.
I’ve had people do things or make donations to the church & say, “I just want to score a few points with the Man upstairs.”
But, I’m here to tell you that God could care less how many points you try to score with Him… what He cares about is if He is your Lord and your Savior…
You don’t have to throw a brick through a church window or punch a preacher in the nose to have a one-way ticket to Hell.
You can take communion until your tongue is purple…
you can have a piece of paper that says you are a member of a church & in good standing…
you can be baptized until the tadpoles know your social security number & still be as lost as lost can be.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that a new Birth… a new heart… a new nature is what is necessary!
We are born in sin.
Our children don’t have to be taught how to be bad… they gravitate to that.
Kids have to be taught to share; they don’t have to be taught to be selfish…
We have to teach them how to be good… being good is not part of the sinful nature we are born into.
And since we are born with an evil nature that we have not chosen…
we must choose for God to set us free & replace it with His nature.
We must cry out to God…
dear God, take away my selfish nature & replace it with your selflessness.
Give me a nature that wants to give with getting the credit…
Lord, help me to serve without needing to get the glory…
I know how to be selfish. I know what makes me comfortable.
I know what make me happy & so without much thought, we make decisions that make our road easier, our lives more comfortable & our hearts happier.
And only God can replace that selfish, self-indulgent, self-ingratiating nature with His nature that is selfless, giving, loving & more concerned about others.
Imagine what just 20% of us could do to build God’s Kingdom if our focus was always on others?
I kind of think we could turn the world upside down for Jesus!
So, it would make sense that only God can help us to be born again. Born into a new way of living so different from the old.
I think that Nicodemus gets the point!
After Nicodemus objects, Jesus takes the occasion to repeat & confirm what He had just said.
Verily, verily I say unto you – the same thing I said before.
We can & must receive this new birth, period!
John 3:9 “How are these things possible?”
Jesus answers sharply…
John 3:10 “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things?”
Nicodemus would have known the O.T. backwards & forwards…
All the religion & knowledge in the world will not avail if the heart does not change.
No amount of head knowledge or good deeds will do.
Jesus can see the heart in its natural, unsaved state.
Jesus tells Nicodemus & us that the heart must be changed!
Romans 10:9-10 “…if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (NIV)
A change took place
We find in John 7:45-52, we find that Nicodemus raised his voice on behalf of Jesus as the Sanhedrin devised a plot against Him.
The religious rulers were avowed enemies of Jesus…
& Nicodemus raised a “point of order” in favor of the One who had taught him so much.
He was likely a follower, a disciple of Jesus it seems…
But, in all likelihood, Nicodemus was a disciple at heart…
a secret disciple for he merely raised a point of order & did not go to the extreme of defending Jesus.
Nicodemus, not wanting to appear on Jesus’ side, raises a point of order that anyone there could have & should have made if they were worth their salt.
He doesn’t go to the extreme of saying, I believe that this Jesus is who He says He is, the Son of God.
I believe that the things Jesus is teaching are true & right.
He doesn’t go that far, does he?
When we have the opportunity, do we merely raise a point of order when confronted about Jesus?
Or do we go to the extreme of defending Jesus to a world whose hearts have grown cold?
But, it is clear that a change had taken place… but God wasn’t done with him.
It is possible Nicodemus was spoken of when it says in John 12:42, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.”
Next, we see Nicodemus has a great power failure.
John 18 – In those terrible last hours of injustice, when the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to death, there is no recorded protest from Nicodemus.
When the chips were down, he folded.
It is not enough to cease to do evil… we must live righteously.
Well pastor, “I don’t smoke & I don’t chew & I don’t go with girls who do”.
That is well & good, but it is not enough just to cease to do evil, we must be about the business of living Godly lives before others & God!
Nicodemus shows up when others don’t
Nicodemus, along with Joseph of Arimathea, went to Pilate to get the body of Jesus after the crucifixion.
Now we see a contrast, don’t we?
Nicodemus brings what is necessary to take care of Jesus’ body and it’s value in monetary terms would be as valuable as a modest home in today’s money.
Boldly now he comes before the man who had given the final sentence of death to Jesus.
It took the death of Jesus to make Nicodemus stand up & no longer be a secret disciple.
Think about this, all of Jesus’ disciples were gone!
If no one else had come, Pilate & the soldiers would have “disposed” of the body.
It took a crisis for him to step up!
His 1st crisis was that visit by night when he 1st believed.
His 2nd crisis is now. He doesn’t care if people know he knew Jesus…
He doesn’t care if it would cost him everything… he still took care of Jesus’ body.
We can see his commitment…
We can see he is not embarrassed by Jesus…
He no longer was concerned what others would say about him or what those in authority would do to him.
He gave a small fortune & risked it all for Jesus.
Openly he moved to give the body of Jesus a Kingly burial with his own hands.
He didn’t call a gravedigger, a caretaker or the funeral home.
With his own hands, he prepares Jesus’ body for burial.
But, the dead cannot appreciate our loving attention.
Mary gave her spice and care to Jesus while He was alive.
Will you wait too late? Oh, come now.