Summary: The late Steve McQueen sought an opportunity to speak with Billy Graham about his struggle that God gives us eternal life through Jesus Christ. Nicodemus had a similar meeting when he spoke with Jesus about being born again.
NICK AT NIGHT
Text: John 3:1-17
A famous actor by the name of Steve McQueen was much like the characters that he portrayed on screen. He was successful until alcohol and a failed marriage left him empty and broken. He attended a crusade led by one of Billy Graham’s associates. McQueen made a profession of faith and requested to speak with Billy Graham personally. Later on, Graham did meet with McQueen for a couple of hours between flights while he was in Los Angeles. “Steve McQueen struggled with the thought of God giving eternal life to a man who had such a checkered past. In Titus 1:2, Steve McQueen found his hope: "the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago." He requested something to write down the verse, but Billy Graham gave McQueen his Bible instead. Later, Steve McQueen died in Mexico while seeking experimental treatment for his terminal cancer. He passed into eternal life with his Bible opened to Titus 1 and his finger resting on verse 2. Regardless of our past, we have the hope of God's eternal promise.” (Raymond McHenry. ed. McHenry’s Quips, Quotes And Other Notes. [Ike Reighard, 1993 SBC Pastor's Conference]. Third Printing. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004, p 80). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Much like Nicodemus, Steve McQueen was seeking some time with a religious official. Steve McQueen spoke with Billy Graham about being in relationship with the Lord. Nicodemus spoke with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Steve McQueen was born again while Nicodemus was trying to understand what it means to be “born again”. Nicodemus was hungry and curious but seemed to lack assurance.
Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night? There are many suggestions. 1) Speculations: Was the night the only time that Nicodemus had in his schedule? Was he worried about what his peers might think? Was Nicodemus seeking time with Jesus because he anticipated that Jesus would be interrupted by the crowds? Was he so taken with Jesus that he could not wait until daylight? 2) Trepidation; Was he exercising caution or demonstrating cowardice? Or, did he come to Jesus in the dark because Nicodemus himself was in the dark?
Was Nicodemus an secret admirer or a true follower? 1) Secret admirer: If Nicodemus is a true follower, then he would have been open about it, right? Jesus knew who was impressed with the miraculous signs as well as the true followers and the secret admirers (John 2:23 25). Jesus even knew who would later betray Him (John 6:64). 2) True followers: Nicodemus took up for Jesus when some who opposed Jesus and wanted to have Him arrested (John 7:45 -52). Is it possible that Nicodemus was drawn by God? Jesus said that no one could come to Him unless he or she was drawn by God our heavenly Father who sent Him (John 6:44). Joseph of Arimathea was accompanied by Nicodemus bought the burial place for Jesus secretly, for fear of the Jews (John 19:38).
Nicodemus was a man who was spiritually hungry. 1) Religious and educated: Nicodemus was a religious man. All of the Pharisees were religious people. Yet, the religion that he had was not satisfying. 2) Restless: God made us in such a way that we will not find rest until we find it in Him as St. Augustine once said. Yes, Nicodemus was religious but he also had a part of him that was restless because spiritually he was hungry. Isn’t that why he was secretly talking with Jesus in the first place? Someone (H.C.Kee) made the point that Nicodemus was a symbol of the Jewish nation as a whole …” in John’s Gospel. (George Arthur Buttrick. ed. The Interpeter’s Dictionary Of The Bible. “H. C. Kee. “Nicodemus”. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989, p. 547). Nicodemus spoke as if he were representing the curiosity of others as well as himself.
Do we sometimes resemble Nicodemus? It appears that we do resemble Nicodemus. 1) Drawn by God: Are we drawn by God but also scared about what others might think as Nicodemus was? 2) Undercover Christians?: Someone (Gail R. O’Day ) said, “The slaves saw in Nicodemus’s night visit, proof that it was possible to come to Jesus even when those in power forbade it.” (Leander E. Keck. ed. The New Interpreter’s Bible. Volume IX. Gail R. O’Day. “The Gospel Of John.” Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995, p. 555). How many are there who have to live in fear and hiding because of their faith? Even the oppressed who come to God in secret are drawn by God.
NICODEMUS’ QUEST FOR ASSURANCE
Nicodemus had knowledge, but he lacked assurance. 1) Knowledge: Nicodemus was very knowledgeable because of his position as a Pharisee. He was religious and knowledgeable and yet, he did not find that having this knowledge made him feel secure. 2) Regeneration: To be Regenerated means that one has been born again from above through God’s life giving Spirit. 1) Deceived: In his book, The Holy Spirit, Billy Graham makes a very important point concerning the understanding of regeneration. He points out that both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were both baptized by the symbolic act of baptism, while their lives did not bear a testimony to having been “regenerated”. (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1978, p. 60). 2) Delivered: In his Aldersgate experience, John Wesley described assurance as the feeling of knowing that one’s sins had been forgiven. Assurance means confidence, trust and security. Is that what Nicodemus was searching for? Unless we have the light that Jesus gives, we are living in the dark.