READ: John 3:1-21
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.” This simple sentence holds a world of information. This man who came to Jesus by night was a powerful member of the ruling group in Judaism. The Pharisees tended to be well thought of by the people. They weren’t the wealthy elite, most held day jobs, they were those who had studied and grown into these places of power.
We also know that Jesus had an opinion about the Pharisees. As Jesus’ ministry unfolds we’ll see them as the Jewish group most intent on undermining Jesus’ work and ministry. Jesus calls them hypocrites and abhors the rules this group places upon the people in general. Jesus’ most scathing remarks are reserved for this group.
With these thoughts in my mind, I wonder at Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus. Why did Nicodemus come to him at night? It might have been fear or pride. But I also wonder if it was discretion? This is early in Jesus’ ministry and perhaps Nicodemus legitimately wants to check Jesus out without inadvertently giving a stamp of approval to the man via a daylight meeting. In any case, he comes and this draws me to Nicodemus.
And I absolutely love it that Jesus doesn’t treat Nicodemus as Jesus’ opinion of the Pharisees might suggest he would. He treats Nicodemus as a seeking, questioning individual. He engages with him intellectually and spiritually. He doesn’t rebuke him or question his motives or put him off. Oh how I want to be like this – not automatically shutting another down because I have an opinion of the ‘group’ of which this individual is a part. And this draws me to Jesus.
One of the greatest and clearest explanations of Jesus’ purpose in coming to the world is presented in this discourse with Nicodemus. Every Sunday School child memorizes John 3:16. And Jesus interjects something that I’m sure caused Nicodemus, the one who came in the dark, to deeply ponder. “This is the verdict (spoken to one who sits on the ruling council): Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21 No one had likely even hinted to Nicodemus that there was anything of darkness in his life. Jesus invites him to consider his life in light of the Light!
Lord, knowing a group’s heart and teaching and speaking out against evil and wrong is a good thing. Thank You for demonstrating that fact in the way you spoke out against the Pharisees. But Lord, thank You so much for the way you engaged a single member of that same group. Oh to be like You! Give me the heart to see individuals and to listen and to engage and to share. Bless You for showing the way Lord!