Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. ‘”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again. ‘ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven –the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Nicodemus came at night. He proclaimed that Jesus ‘had come from God.’ Yet, He came at night. He was a Pharisee and this group, more than any other, wanted to rid Jerusalem of Jesus. The Pharisees had spent centuries building a system of laws that allowed them to prop themselves up and keep the common man from believing acceptance from God was possible. Then, here comes this so-called teacher forgiving men of their sins, calling out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, and saying things like ‘whoever’ believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. He was turning their whole world upside-down. He was exposing them as liars, manipulators, and hypocrites. Nicodemus knew to declare his belief that Jesus was from God would have been extremely dangerous for he and his family. Not only this, but Nicodemus was one of the three wealthiest men in Jerusalem as well. He was seriously connected and to approach Jesus in the daylight would have been social suicide.
So…he came unto the Light of the world under the cover of darkness.
Have you ever come to Jesus at night? Around the water cooler at work, gossip sprouts and we know that it is wrong, but we have come to Jesus at night. Our friends want to visit an unsavory spot for entertainment and spirits. We know we shouldn’t go, but we have come to Jesus at night. Our group of friends plot what displeases God. We know we should say something, but we have come to Jesus at night.
Nicodemus would be mocked for suggesting the Pharisees follow their own law in dealing with Jesus. Nevertheless, he kept his belief that Christ was from God in the dark. When they finally murdered him on a cross, it was too much. Nicodemus could no longer remain under the cover of night. Along with another ‘secret’ disciple of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus took down the body of Jesus and prepared it for burial. The whole city was involved in this crucifixion and the Jews and the Romans were very concerned about the body of Christ. There was no way they would release it to someone and not keep track of the body. Their secret was out.
Neither the world nor the Lord will allow us to play both sides forever. There will come a time when we have to choose and that choice will solidly place us in the dark or the light. We will no longer be able to encounter the light of the world under the cover of darkness. Nor will we be able to roam the streets of darkness with our light hidden under a bushel. Moments will come that demand a clear choice. Choosing darkness will require a complete denial of the Light. To choose light will require an unveiling of our faith. When these moments present themselves before us, we must choose light. We must step out. We must not be ashamed of our Lord.
Tradition says that Nicodemus lost everything. He would be baptized by Peter choosing to follow Christ in the light of day. He was removed from office and expelled from Jerusalem. He lost all of his wealth and his daughter was seen gathering barleycorn from under horse’s feet for food. He lost a great deal. His gain though far outweighed his loss. He gained integrity, character, joy, love, mercy, truth, salvation and eternity. What do you think? As for me, I think he chose well, quite well.
Lee Young is the author of The Journey: Understanding God’s Plan for Your Life. His teaching and ministry focus on mental, spiritual, and emotional healing through the Words of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit.