Nicodemus visits Jesus at night

The Life of Jesus Christ - Chapter 3 - People who met Jesus during his early work for God - Part 2

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John 3:1-21

An important man

When Jesus was at Jerusalem, an important man visited him at night. The man was Nicodemus. He was a member of the Jewish *Council. He was also a Pharisee. The Pharisees spent much time studying the law. They tried hard to obey it. Sometimes they obeyed their own ideas of the law. They believed that *ceremonies and *sacrifices were very important for their religion. They prayed often. Often they did not eat because of their religion. They gave God a tenth part of their money and of all their other possessions. They thought that the rules about behaviour were the most important rules. They paid great attention to the practice of their religion. They often did not understand the real meaning of God’s rules. Jesus had many discussions with them. These discussions show us the errors that these men were making. In the end, Jesus declared that they were quite wrong. See Matthew 23.

Nicodemus understood what everyone should have understood. He saw what Jesus was doing. So, Nicodemus realised that Jesus was from God. But this caused a problem for Nicodemus. He thought that the *Messiah would be a king. This king would force the Romans and other enemies to leave *Israel. Jesus was not this kind of a man. Also, the way that Jesus spoke about God’s rules was different. He did not think about God’s rules in the way that Nicodemus thought about them.

Nicodemus expected that a king [that is, the *Messiah] would defeat the Romans. The Romans would leave, and the Jewish leaders would rule. This would be the beginning of the *kingdom of God. But Nicodemus could see that this was not Jesus' message. Nicodemus was an honest man. He came to ask Jesus himself.

Why did Nicodemus visit Jesus at night?

But why did Nicodemus visit Jesus at night? He was frightened. The crowds were watching the Jewish leaders. They wanted to know what the leaders believed about Jesus (John 7:26, 48). The rest of the *Council would not be happy about this visit. They would think that Nicodemus was foolish. They would ask questions: 'Does Nicodemus think that Jesus is the *Messiah?' They would laugh at him! They might not even allow him to be a member of the *Council. He would lose everything. He would not continue to be an important man. People would not respect him. His whole life would change. The story of Nicodemus shows us something that is important. It can be very hard to begin to ask about Jesus. It shows us something else. It can be even harder to obey the *Lord Jesus. Some people might even die because they obey Jesus.

First of all, Nicodemus said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we know that you have come from God. Nobody could do these *miracles and signs if God were not with him’.

Jesus spoke more clearly to this honest man than he did to some other people. He answered Nicodemus’s question at once.

A new birth

Jesus said, ‘Nobody can see the *kingdom of God unless he has a new life’. To begin a new life, we need a new birth. Of course, Jesus did not mean a physical rebirth. It will be a *spiritual birth. We all have a big problem. We have *sin in our lives. We are selfish. We want to please ourselves. We want all kinds of good things for ourselves. God has to change us. Then we can be the people that he wants us to be. He has to change the way that we think. He has to change the way that we live. It will be like a new life. Or, like a new birth. The *prophets knew this. For example Jeremiah wrote:

Jeremiah 31:31-34: ‘The time is coming’, declares the *Lord, ‘when I will make a new *covenant with the people from *Israel and *Judah. This is the *covenant that I will make with the people from *Israel after that time’, declares the *Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds. I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. A man will not have to teach his neighbour or his brother. He will not have to say, “Know the *Lord”. They will all know me, every one of them’, declares the *Lord. ‘For I will forgive their *sin. I will remember their *sins no more’.

Nicodemus was a very good teacher (see John 3:10). He should have known this passage from Jeremiah. He should have understood when Jesus told him.

God forgives our *sin

There was something else that God would do, to give men new life. He had to forgive us for our *sin. We have all had wrong attitudes. We behave badly and this does not please God. When he forgives us, we can know God. We can live with God. God forgives us because Jesus died for us on the *cross. Jesus spoke about this to Nicodemus. This is what he said:

John 3:14-16: Moses lifted up the snake in the desert. Like that, God must lift up the Son of Man [that is, Jesus]. Then everyone who believes in him may have *eternal life. For God so loved the people in the world that he gave his one and only Son. The person who believes in him shall not die. He will have *eternal life.

Nicodemus would not have understood this at the time. Later on, he does seem to have become a *disciple. After Jesus died on the *cross, Nicodemus helped to bury Jesus' body. Joseph from Arimathea, who was also a member of the Jewish *council, helped Nicodemus (John 19v39).


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