Summary: A study of the visit of Nicodemus at night
2nd lent 11
The first episode of Nick at Night
John 3: 1-17
We have all heard jokes about people showing up at the pearly gates seeking entrance into Heaven. While many of these jokes bring a smile to our faces, behind most of them is the false assumption that we must do something to get into Heaven. It is shocking to people to hear that they can’t do anything to earn entrance into Heaven. Grace goes beyond human comprehension. By our nature, we want to merit God’s favor. The scandal of grace challenges our normal way of thinking.
In our text today, we come across one of those persons who had a difficult time understanding the truth of free grace salvation. His name was Nicodemus, and as we move through our text, we will discover that Nicodemus was a very religious man who had a hard time realizing the difference between religion and relationship.
It was at night that this ruler of the Jews, Nicodemus, decided to pay the teacher Jesus a visit. There has been a lot of speculation as to why he came at night.
- rabbis studied at night
- to avoid the crowd
- so their conversation would not be limited
- b/c he feared being seen with Jesus because the Gospels mention that he, along with Joseph of Arimathea were secretly disciples.
When you read the Gospel of John you must realize that it is the most spiritual of the 4 Gospels and uses imagery to make a point. In John’s gospel, darkness opposes light. Perhaps the mention of the fact it was night symbolizes the darkness that shrouded Nicodemus’ heart and soul. You might call this encounter the first “Nick at Night.” But for whatever reason, Nicodemus comes at night in hopes that this miracle worker can answer some of his spiritual questions. He was a seeker.
Now, it must be said up front that Nicodemus was no ordinary citizen. He was rich. He was respected. He was religious (Pharisee, 1 of 70, gave his life to studying and obeying the Law and traditions). He was a ruler of the Jews.
In today’s scripture we’re going to discover three steps you can take to start your life over. The first step is…. Start your life over by having your own private talk with Jesus. I want you to notice that Nicodemus was a man of distinction and outstanding character. He was intelligent, honest and upright. John in his gospel tells us: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him" (3:1-2).
No doubt, Nicodemus, who was a member the Sanhedrin, had heard about Jesus. Perhaps he came at night so he could have a private meeting with Jesus and ask all the questions he wanted to ask. He was a religious man. We know that he took his religion seriously because he was a member of the Pharisees sect. They were strict, narrow, traditionalists. John says he was “a ruler of the Jews." In other words he was one who is first or preeminent among his associates. He stood in a high position among the ruling class in Jerusalem. This would indicate that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. We also know that Nicodemus was a man of discernment is seen in his estimation of Jesus. “We know that You have come from God as a teacher."
Most importantly, in this episode, we see that Nicodemus was a seeker - a person who was sincere in his quest for the kingdom of God but, nevertheless, a spiritual failure in spite of all his religious knowledge and enthusiasm. Here was a sincere man with a sincere hunger for truth who came to have a private talk with Jesus in the quietness of the night away from those who would distract. He came to Jesus at night so that he could have a private conversation concerning his own very personal needs.
Jesus had something he did not have. Nicodemus, like each of us, was seeking for that something more in life – looking, longing for spiritual bliss and truth to fill the hole that’s felt in the heart. Nicodemus was a man whose whole life was a religious exercise yet he realized that Jesus had something he did not have.
One of the messages of John 3 is just that! You may have all sorts of Christian activity like John Wesley. John Wesley grew up right and go to the right university much like Nicodemus, having all the trappings of a good faith. You may have founded your own ‘holy club” like Wesley; done excellent work in church organizations; perhaps even figured out a method of spirituality like Wesley and Nicodemus. You may have even have a routine of Bible reading and praying, but that is not enough to give you true eternal life that is born from above and felt deeply in the heart.