3:1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.
3:2 He came to Jesus by 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 do apart from the presence of God.”
3:3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
3:4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”
3:5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.
3:6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
3:7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’
3:8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
3:9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
3:10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
3:11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.
3:12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
3:16 “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.
3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
As I read this passage over and over, I began to understand that we are more like Nicodemus than we often like to think. Let me explain…
Here was Nicodemus, a pious Pharisee, trained in all of the Jewish Law. And yet, I think that Nicodemus not only wanted to know more about Jesus, but actually believed that he was who he said he was. But look at when he came to Jesus…in the night.
Often things that happen in the dark are the things that you don’t want anyone to find out. It might have been that way with Nicodemus. Times were scary then. Those very Pharisees that Nicodemus was a part of, they were out to kill Jesus. I can understand why Nicodemus might have waited until the night to come to Jesus.
But why do we? Why is it so hard for us to be a Jesus Follower during the day (or at night)? Why are so many afraid of being “found out” that they are Christian – at work, on the ball field, or anywhere in their lives? I was talking just this week with my school group about going to jail for Jesus! Paul and the apostles before him were jailed for proclaiming “Jesus is Lord!” Would we be jailed for that now? Not in America. So what are we afraid of?
Nicodemus also had trouble following Jesus’ teachings….as shown in scripture. He couldn’t get it. We too have trouble following those ancient words, words that sometimes just don’t seem to be relevant in 2011 or they sound counter to what the world calls normal for today. Why do we find it hard to understand those things that Jesus said? Everything he said was for the good of the people! Everything he said was out of love and concern for God’s children. Don’t kill one another. Don’t cheat on your spouse. Don’t lie. Love God with everything you are and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s just a few, they sound easy enough, and yet we make excuses or justify our actions. Yes, we too have trouble following Jesus’ teachings.
But Nicodemus did have some good qualities. He tried to take up for Jesus when he was teaching in a crowd, (John 7: 50) but when he did, others voices were louder than his, so he just shut up. Aren’t we often like that too? We will try to voice our concerns or proclaim what is right, but when others are louder or condemn us, we too just shut our voices down.
Nicodemus, however, did have one final gesture of being a Jesus follower. It was he who secretly accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to the tomb with Jesus’ body after he had been crucified. Nicodemus brought about 75 lbs. of a mixture of myrrh and aloe in order to anoint the body. He helped wrap Jesus’ body in strips of linen and spices in accordance with the Jewish burial customs.
I wonder if being a “secret” follower was as good as it was ever going to get with Nicodemus. Is that as good as it is ever going to get with us? What will it take for us to become bold in our faith, to speak loudly but lovingly above the crowds of worldly desires and marketplaces? What will it take for us to stop accepting drive by shootings as a normal part of city living? What will it take for us to see all people, regardless of color or country, as our neighbors? What will it take to love more than hate and complain? What will it take for us to see that the world is hurting and they need us, the followers of Christ to go to them? What will it take? What will it take for us to live daily in God’s future, in the glory of the resurrection, in hope, and grace, and love, and mercy…instead of in fear?
Jesus has already died for us.
Wasn’t that enough?