“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” – John 3:1-3
Nicodemus visited Jesus in the dead of night. Why? Each sentence of this brief passage highlights one of three interrelated answers to that question. First, Nicodemus was one of about 6,000 Pharisees at the time, men who were set apart to maintain the ways of the Lord. He was respected as a teacher of Israel and served as a member of the Sanhedrin, or Jewish tribunal. He wielded significant religious, social, and political power, all of which would have kept him quite busy during the day. More importantly, a public meeting with Jesus could have jeopardized his position and his reputation.
The risk factor explains the clandestine operation but not the motivation. Why did Nicodemus go to Jesus at all? Because he was not a Pharisee in name only; he was truly zealous for the Lord. The text makes it clear that he believed Jesus was, at the very least, empowered by God. Nicodemus was moved by the Savior’s teachings and works, even if he did not yet grasp their full import. His heart longed to understand what his brain could not.
Which leads us to the final piece of this puzzle. While the first two revolve around who Nicodemus was, the third is centered on who Jesus is. The Apostle John referred to Jesus as “the true light, which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). To this day, he illuminates the darkness so that his children can see the truth about him, themselves, and the world around them. Nicodemus was simultaneously drawn to this light and terrified of what it might reveal. His entire identity was built on his authority as a teacher and scholar, his reputation as a good man and devoted follower of the Lord. Stepping into the light would challenge his self-image and his worldview.
Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because he was hungry for a deeper knowledge of the Lord, but he was afraid of being seen, literally and figuratively. It seemed safer to remain in the shadows. However, Nicodemus would quickly learn that there is nothing safe about Jesus. As the Beaver in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe proclaimed about Aslan, “Oh no, he is not safe but he is good.” Jesus will bring God’s holy light and truth into the darkness of Nicodemus’ life. It will not be safe, but it will be so very good.
Reflect & Respond:
Do you come to Jesus with fear, pride, or holy expectation that you are encountering the light of the world? He sees you; he knows you; and he loves you. He shines his light into every dark area of your life so that he can reveal, heal, and lead you into his perfect truth. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our new six-week Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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