Summary: Though it is difficult for us to relinquish control of our lives to this one who lived long ago (Jesus), it was even more difficult to do so when He walked on this earth. That was especially true for a prominent ruler of the Jews by the name of Nicodemus.
• Read John 3:12-16; 7:45-53; 19:38-42
• To you, I hope, Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, your Savior and your Lord. It is so wonderful that we live on this side of the cross and resurrection. Though it is difficult to relinquish control of our lives to this one who lived long ago, it was even more difficult to do so when He walked on this earth. That was especially true for a prominent ruler of the Jews by the name of Nicodemus. Jesus in no way came as the “expected” Messiah was to come – born of royalty and carrying a sword in His hand. And His teachings exposed the hypocrisy of much of what Nicodemus and others like him were hiding behind.
• Nicodemus became a distant disciple for understandable reasons. Yet as you hear his story this morning, evaluate your own walk and relationship with Jesus. Are you too a distant disciple?
Shalom! Let me introduce myself. I am a member of an old family in Jerusalem. We can trace our lineage back to the time when our nation returned from the Exile in Babylon. My family has been prominent for generations.
As a guardian of the establishment, I belong to the elite religious sect within Judaism. We call ourselves Pharisees, or the “separated ones”. We are a strict brotherhood made up of the best men of our people and pledged to obey the law and uphold the traditions of our fathers. We consider ourselves to be the true Israelites. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and look forward to the coming of the Messiah. My brothers expect him to be a militant figure who will drive the Romans from our holy city and God-given land.
Because of my position in the community, I am also on the 70 member Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin. The Roman governor allows us considerable jurisdiction over the internal government of the province. Our religious authority extends to every Jewish male in the world. The high priest himself is our president or chief justice. My membership in this body marks me as a ruler of the Jews.
I have quite a reputation as a rabbi or teacher among my people. Some give me the title, “The Teacher” My chief teacher was Gamaliel, of whom you may have heard.
At Passover some five springs ago, we had quite a stir in the capital. An intense rabbi from Galilee came to the feast accompanied by a group of his students or disciples. He caused a big ruckus by driving the sellers of sacrificial animals and birds out of the Temple complex – with a plaited whip! He also upset the tables of the money changers. It very nearly precipitated a riot. The high priest was livid! He had licensed stalls and received a handsome commission on their profits.
However what really upset my party, the Pharisees, was what this fellow Jesus said as He cleared the place out. “You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade!”
His Father’s house, indeed. Who did He think He was? That was what my fellow Pharisees wanted to know. Then it was reported that He said He would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. An absurd claim, we thought.
My group was up in arms against this fellow Jesus. “But let us be fair,” I said. “Let’s examine all the facts.” Jesus did a number of miracles, or signs, as He called them. I didn’t take much stock in them until my blind cousin was healed by him. It was an authentic miracle. From that moment, I knew we must take this rabbi a bit more seriously. Our writings say that if a prophet gives a sign or miracle he is to be listened to.
Let me confess that despite my family’s wealth and my prominence as a rabbi in Jerusalem, something was lacking in me. I have kept the law all my adult life. Yet there was little joy in it all. It was largely an external affair of ritual cleanliness and righteousness. At a deeper level I had been a seeker after truth for some time before I met the Master. I certainly had a veneer of respectability, but underneath I felt a nagging void. I determined to meet Jesus and examine His claims and teachings for myself. After all, it was the only fair thing to do.
I decided to arrange an interview with Jesus. I had to go by night. There are several reasons for this. Night was the favorite time for rabbis, such as Jesus and I, to discuss law and theology among ourselves. It was a quiet time when there would be little likelihood of interruption. He was a highly controversial person. Discretion dictated that the interview be conducted privately.