Monday, January 14, 2019
Nicodemus “was a Jewish leader, one of the Pharisees.” He “came to Jesus at night.” He “said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know you’re a teacher who has come from God. No one could do these miracles which you are performing, if God were not with him.”
The Pharisee Party began during the period between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. The word “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew idea of “one who is separated for a life of purity.” Almost two centuries before the establishment of Jesus’ assembly, Greeks occupied Jerusalem and defiled the Temple with their paganism. Judas Maccabeus and family opposed this blasphemy and liberated Jerusalem in 165 B.C. In 63 B.C. the Romans captured Jerusalem and occupied that region. During this period, the two main religious parties were the Pharisees and Sadducees. Each attempted to gain control of the Temple and priesthood through their influence and connections. Phariseeism respected Moses and the prophets and considered themselves biblically conservative. Some Pharisees wore their belief on their sleeves while others held it in their heart. Both have their place in the Good News.
Some have the idea that the Pharisee Party was completely against Jesus. This wasn’t the case. Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, but a leader in the Party. Prior to Jesus’ birth there was an expectation among the Jews that the prophesies concerning the Messiah was close to fulfillment. Jesus was not the first in Palestine to be announced as “the anointed one.” Others would follow who would make that claim (Matthew 24:5). Those Messiahs were more like the kind envisioned by the general population. They wanted a modern David to drive the foreigners out and re-establish the Jewish State. Even the apostles had this vision (Matthew 20:21; Mark 10:37; Acts 1:6). Perhaps Pilate thought the same thing, but Jesus attempted to correct his view (John 18:36). Even today, some base their hope on Jesus soon validating his kingship with an earthly realm.
Nicodemus went to Jesus “at night” (John 3:1-21). Why? John mentions it three times but doesn’t say (John 3:1; 7:50 and 19:39). Some believe he visited at that hour in secret because if known, it might have imperiled his leadership position in the Party. Did curiosity drive Nicodemus to Jesus’ door despite such a danger? Perhaps. Didn’t it drive Zacchaeus up a tree? However, that night time visit may have been the only opportunity Nicodemus had in talking one on one with Jesus. Wasn’t the Lord usually surrounded with a multitude who sought healing or another meal?
Nicodemus told Jesus, “we know you’re a teacher who has come from God.” “We”? Was he being generic or specific with his “we”? Would that “we” not also cover the Pharisees? Wasn’t the Pharisee Party the religious police of that day? They certainly investigated Jesus. Since Jesus did not come to drive Gentile pagans out of Palestine, he could not be the Messiah they needed. They had to interpret his miracles and teaching negatively to justify that denial. Don’t some have that disposition today? Nicodemus was not of that number.
Nicodemus allowed Jesus’ miracles and teaching to convince him that this Galilean was the prophetic Messiah. Later, he spoke out in defense of Jesus (John 7:50). He helped Joseph of Arimathea with Jesus’ burial (John 19:39.
Nicodemus wasn’t the only Pharisee who followed Jesus (Philippians 3:5). In Acts 11:2-3 and 15:5 we see that other Pharisees had been added to the saved by God. Why would God add someone to the saved that would later cause problems? Wouldn’t the question be answered by asking why He added you and me? Did he add us because we would never think or act contrary to His will? Are we head and shoulders above all others due to our Bible knowledge or pure lives? Didn’t Jesus die for Nicodemus, the Pharisee Party members, you, me, and all others!
Nicodemus went by night to see a miracle worker. He not only found the prophetic Messiah, but also the Son of God. You too can find him. You and I just need to get up and go (Matthew 11:28-30). About three thousand did on Pentecost (Acts 2:40-41). Later five thousand men followed (Acts 4:4). It didn’t take long before others did the same (Acts 5:14). Levitical priest also believed (Acts 6:7). Jesus’ invitation spread with the same results (Acts 8:12). That message found smaller audiences too (Acts 8:35-38). That invitation continues to be valid today. It is called the Good News?