Summary: This is the 4th in a 5 part sermon series on people who have encountered Christ and how thier lives have been changed. Nicodemus’ call is for us not to limit our faith only to what we can reasonably understand.
Bibliography: Indiana Jones In Search of the Holy Grail
There once was a man named Nicodemus who was a great religious leaders of the Jews.
That’s how John begins to tell us the story of the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus
For the next two weeks we will be looking at biblical people who encountered Christ and how their lives were changed by the experience. This is ironic, because from John’s story, we have no indication that Nicodemus was changed by the encounter at all. And it is doubly ironic, because of the biblical characters we have examined on Monday evenings – beginning with 2 men and 2 women whose lives were transformed by the healing power Jesus, to an unconventional and outcast woman, and a short statured man we will meet next week – we probably resemble Nicodemus most of all.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was a religious leader in the church. Some would suggest that he was a well respected leader within the Jewish community.
Some of us may not see ourselves in such a way – as a leader within the church. Nevertheless, even if we might not define ourselves that way, we find ourselves here this evening, in church, at an unconventional hour and I daresay that puts us one up on some of the others from our community.
In any case, its not in that way that we necessarily resemble Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was also an inquisitive fellow. He had lots of questions. He went to go see Jesus for a midnight discussion. But its not even as inquisitive people asking questions of our faith that we most resemble Nicodemus.
A night full of questions probably doesn’t seem so strange to us. Each of us can think of those dark nights when we’ve wrestled with problems, asking God why. But that sort of thing isn’t what’s necessarily reflected in Nicodemus’ midnight excursion.
Coming to see Jesus in the middle of the night signified something in Jesus’ day. It was an issue of authority. It signified a lack of respect and honor. If you wanted to acknowledge someone, pay them respect, validate their actions, support their view point, truly inquire of them, ask legitamate questions, you would do that by approaching that person in public in daylight.
Going to see Jesus in the middle of the night is a disrespectful, slight of hand thing to do. Coming in the middle of the night would suggest that Nicodemus isn’t truly a seeker. His intentions are not honorable ones. We are left to question why would Nicodemus approach Jesus in this way?
Nicodemus’ words would suggest that his intentions are otherwise. He is impressed by the miracles Jesus has been able to perform.
At least that’s what his words say. The time of day he chose to approach Jesus would tell us something different. Coming to visit Jesus in the middle of the night would suggest that Nicodemus has no faith in Jesus’ claims or actions, even though Nicodemus word’s would suggest otherwise. This has something to do with how we resemble Nicodemus. You might say no. I hope to explain how I see otherwise.
Why does Nicodemus approach Jesus in this contradictory manner? Some would say that Nicodemus really was a seeker who is troubled by Jesus and his actions, that Nicodemus approached Jesus to clarify a few things, to help his unbelief.
Others believe that Nicodemus’ midnight meeting is one of trickery; that he comes as one of the religious leaders, as a Pharisee who wishes to trick Jesus with is words.
Nicodemus’ comment that the miracles Jesus performs are a sign that Jesus comes from God, is leading and misleading with the intention of trapping Jesus into making a blasphemic statement. This might be so, but Jesus doesn’t fall for it, if this is the case.
Through their conversation, we see a lack of understanding on the part of Nicodemus who constantly tries to make sense of Jesus’ words.
Within us all, within the world, within our society, we are most like Nicodemus. We try to reason and make sense of God logically and reasonably. We try to reason this whole Christianity thing out. We try to make sense of it all, understand it, reduce our faith to logical and reasonable explanations. It is in this way that we and seekers searching for meaning, most resemble Nicodemus, when we limit our faith to what we can understand.
Though Nicodemus claims to know that Jesus comes from God because of the “signs” (miracles) Jesus performs, Jesus knows proof through signs is no way to know God. If you are looking for a sign, looking for proof, you are missing all that God is.
Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge Nicodemus’ comment. Rather, he tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. This seems like a nonsensical statement in response to Nicodemus. But it got Nicodemus’ attention.