When we read God’s word and spend time with Him in prayer, are we motivated to stand up for what we believe? Could we speak boldly in the face of adversity? Could we give a reason for the faith, joy and peace we experience even in times of suffering? Our questions lead us to search Scripture for the truth, for things that matter. Nicodemus was driven by the same quest.
He trudged against the wind through the dark and narrow streets of Jerusalem. It was late that cold spring night. Most good Jews were at home in their beds. But not Nicodemus. This curious teacher and Pharisee planned to visit Jesus secretly. Rounding the corner he found a light on in John’s upper room where he believed Jesus stayed.
JESUS KNOWS OUR QUESTIONS BEFORE WE ASK
Our Lord knew what was in Nicodemus’ heart; the uncertainty that led him up the outside steps to the door. Glancing over his shoulder, making sure he was not noticed, Nicodemus knocked firmly as the wind beat against the house.
Jesus opened the door and invited him in. Nicodemus opened his mouth to speak, but no words came. Jesus smiled.
Encouraged, Nicodemus spoke. “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher sent by God. No one could do the miracles you do without God.”
“I am telling you the truth,” Jesus said, “no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Nicodemus squinted his eyes. “How can a grown man do that? How can he enter his mother’s womb again?”
Why did these words surprise Nicodemus? The term ‘new born’ was a Jewish expression about proselytes who experienced a new relationship with God. However, it had no concept of moral renovation or personal change. Jesus switched the term around to ‘born again’ to describe spiritual birth.
Although Nicodemus had risen to a high intellectual and moral status, he was also a master of God’s word and he probed every detail. He studied the Scriptures looking for things that mattered in life, anything he could pass on to his students. He knew from experience that all the self-development, self-improvement and self-restraint he taught could not save anyone. Even though he had all the outward appearances of being godly, he still felt empty inside. So he went to Jesus with his questions.
“To enter the Kingdom of God a man must be born of water and the Spirit,” Jesus said. “Spiritual birth is different than physical birth.”
JESUS USES WORDS AND IMAGES WE UNDERSTAND
While Nicodemus contemplated Jesus’ words, the wind beat against the walls of the upper room and howled through the window coverings.
Jesus raised His hand to the sound of the wind to explain the power of the Holy Spirit. “The wind blows where it pleases. You hear it, but you can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going. That is the way it is for those born of the Spirit.”
Just when Nicodemus was getting the idea, Jesus used another image; this one from Scripture. “When Moses lifted the snake in the desert, people with snake bites looked upon the snake so they would not die,” he said. “In the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”
Nicodemus was familiar with those well known Scriptures, but Jesus’ words puzzled him. He would be lifted up in the same way; that those who looked on Him would be saved. Nicodemus knew that for a man to be lifted up, it would be on a Roman cross for crucifixion.
Jesus’ eyes met Nicodemus’. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.”
JESUS’ WORDS LINGER AND MOTIVATE US LONG AFTER TIME SPENT IN PRAYER.
In the months that followed, Nicodemus pondered his conversation with Jesus. Aware that the chief priests’ and Pharisees’ hate for Jesus had escalated into a plot to kill Him, he wondered, Could this be what the priest Caiaphas meant when he said it was better for one man to die for the people than for the nation to perish? I must be born again and He must be lifted up? What could all this mean? Even though the conversations are not recorded in the Bible, it is likely that Nicodemus kept talking with Jesus. His dialogue with Deity gave him courage to stand up for Jesus.
“Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” Nicodemus asked when Jesus was arrested.
That bold question brought him a heap of ridicule.
“Are you from Galilee too?” the Pharisees replied. “Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come from Galilee.”
By following the example of Nicodemus and taking our concerns to our Lord, we are able to stretch our faith, to stand up for what we believe and speak boldly in the face of adversity knowing our Lord will be our defense; that He will give us the right words to say. We are able to reach out to others so they might experience God’s incredible love, a love that changed Nicodemus’ life and ours. Our changed lives can change other’s lives and those lives can change more lives—lives infused with confidence as a result of a daily dialogue with Deity.
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Edersheim
The NIV Life Application Bible