Summary: A look at Nicodemus from a pragmatic perspective
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night...—John 3:1, 2a
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?" –John 7:50,51
He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
CURIOUS, CONCERNED, COMPASSIONATE, BUT NOT CONVERTED
Conversion involves transformation; it is to undergo change as the result of an experience. Rarely do people change without going through an experience. Few drug addicts just wake up one morning and decide to stop using drugs; few alcoholics just make up their minds to leave the bottle alone; few gambling addicts just decide to stop gambling. That kind of conversion usually requires some kind of experience—what the young folk call drama. You awaken from a drunken stupor, not knowing where you are or what you’ve done; your health begins to fail, and a doctor tells you that you’re killing yourself; you’ve gone through your mortgage money and your car note money and your insurance money, and bill collectors are breathing down your throat. Then you decide you need to make a change in your life.
As it is for those things, so it is with spiritual conversion. Spiritual conversion comes from having an experience with the Lord. But far too many in the Church haven’t been converted. They serve in Church ministries, sing Church hymns, usher Church aisles, teach Church Bible studies, preach from Church pulpits, can quote Bible verses, can pray soul-stirring prayers, give their tithe and their offering, and yet they haven’t been converted—no real change has taken place. And you need to understand that, while conversion comes by way of an experience with the Lord, not every experience with the Lord results in conversion.
Judas Iscariot walked with Jesus for 3 years; he saw Jesus do a lot of great things; he heard Him preach the life-saving words of the Gospel. But at the end, Judas wasn’t converted. He betrayed his Master for 30 pieces of silver and then went out and hung himself. Peter had seen Jesus do some marvelous things—he saw Him raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead; he saw a transfigured Jesus engage in a divine dialogue with Moses and Elijah. But with all that Peter had experienced with Jesus, Peter still had not been converted, for when the moment of truth came, Peter denied that he had ever known Jesus.
And today, there are a lot of people in the Church for reasons other than because they’ve been converted. Somebody’s here to make their spouse happy—you know you won’t get any peace at home unless you go to Church, and so your body’s here, but your mind is somewhere else. Somebody’s trying to bargain with God. You’ve made a mess that you need the Lord to fix, and you figure you’ve got a better chance with God if you come to Church first. Somebody’s here today out of a sense of obligation—you came more out of habit than a genuine desire to worship the Lord, and you feel like God ought to be glad that you got here. But I stopped by to tell you that, if you haven’t come because you’ve been converted, if you haven’t come because you know God is worthy to be praised, if you haven’t come with a mind that’s stayed on Jesus, then you may be in the right place, but you’re not here for the right reason, and I fear that you will leave no better than you were when you came. You need to be converted.
In these texts today, John tells us about a man who had an experience with Jesus, but his experience didn’t lead to conversion. Nicodemus is only mentioned in John’s Gos-pel account—and then only 3 times. We know that he was a Pharisee, an expert in the Law of Moses; we know that he was politically savvy, for he was a member of the powerful Sanhedren Council. He was well-educated, wealthy and quite religious—many of the things we aspire to be. But with all Nicodemus had going for him, his life is a portrait of one who got close to Jesus, but didn’t allow his closeness to end in conversion.
Young people, please hear me today: Get all that you can out of life. Get the best edu-cation that you can; use your education and your talent to earn the best income that you can; get a good religious foundation—read your Bible, come to Worship and Bible Study so that you may be grounded in God’s will. But please remember that true success in life will always be just beyond your grasp until you’ve had a conversion experience with Christ. You can’t live by the Word until you’ve been converted; you can’t make the most of your education or your talent until you’ve been converted; you won’t know how to do use financial resources until you’ve been converted.