Every time I reach this point in John’s Gospel I feel like the child who, in waiting for a grown up to finish a long story, excitedly butts in and blurts out the story’s ending. Blame it on Nicodemus! I love this guy; he’s one of my favorite characters in all of Scripture!
You see, in his Gospel, John is enamored with the thought of “knowing” God. Over and over John underscores the point that coming to know the Lord is a process, not a point in, life. And one of the primary ways John drives that thought home is with his account of the character of Nicodemus.
Nicodemus shows up three times in John’s Gospel. Everyone remembers his first appearance (John 3:1-15) for they recall he “came to Jesus at night” to ask him some questions. Some folks remember his last appearance, as the one who openly assists Joseph of Arimathea in the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:38-42). But not nearly so many folks recall his appearance in between those two events when at great personal risk, Nicodemus, to his faithless, conspiring peers, speaks up in Jesus’ defense (John 7:45-52).
Well, as you read today’s selection of Scripture in the Fresh Eyes project – John 7-9 – you’ll come across that second appearance. Linger over that passage and consider how it plays on much of what Jesus has to say in the chapters surrounding it (e.g. – John 7:17-18,24). Consider, too, how the enlightenment of Nicodemus, spread out over the scope of John’s Gospel, is akin to the enlightenment of the blind man as told in a single chapter (John 9).
But before you do so, read the three appearances of Nicodemus back-to-back. Watch him take matters up with Jesus (John 3), listen to him takes up for Jesus (John 7), and finally, take care of Jesus (John 19). Drink in how he sits at his feet in private, stands up for him in public, and generously serves him however he can. Watch him bloom in faith, progressing in “knowing” our Lord, living up to the meaning of his own name (Nicodemus = “victorious person; victorious people”).
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. 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 could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”
Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”
Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”
“Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. (John 3:1-15 CEB)
The guards returned to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked, “Why didn’t you bring him?”
The guards answered, “No one has ever spoken the way he does.”
The Pharisees replied, “Have you too been deceived? Have any of the leaders believed in him? Has any Pharisee? No, only this crowd, which doesn’t know the Law. And they are under God’s curse!”
Nicodemus, who was one of them and had come to Jesus earlier, said, “Our Law doesn’t judge someone without first hearing him and learning what he is doing, does it?”
They answered him, “You are not from Galilee too, are you? Look it up and you will see that the prophet doesn’t come from Galilee.” (John 7:45-52 CEB)
After this Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate if he could take away the body of Jesus. Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one because he feared the Jewish authorities. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took the body away. Nicodemus, the one who at first had come to Jesus at night, was there too. He brought a mixture of myrrh and aloe, nearly seventy-five pounds in all. Following Jewish burial customs, they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the spices, in linen cloths. There was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus in it. (John 19:38-42 CEB)
We should pray.
Father God, make me like this man, Nicodemus, actively growing in the opening of my mind, my heart, and my love for your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen.