Summary: A STUDY OF NICODEMUS (LENT 2 MESSAGE)
THE PEOPLE’S VICTOR BECOMING GOD’S VICTOR
TEXT: JOHN 3 VERSES 1 TO 17
When one was growing up, a popular trainer young people longed for and will bluff around town with it was the one with the brand name Nike. If you are lucky to have one and a sports shirt and short to match with it, you were seen as a cool guy. It was (and I believe still) a popular brand name. Just seeing the logo on your sportswear, which looks like a mark or sign for ‘correct’ or ‘ok’, people knew you had a Nike product.
I learnt the other day, that the Nike Company adopted the name ‘Nike’ from the name of the Greek goddess for victory, who is called Nike.
This morning I want us to study someone who goes by that name. His full name is Nicodemus. He is a Jew, but adopted a Greek name (which was not uncommon in the first century Roman world).The name Nicodemus comes from two Greek words- ‘íéêç’ (nike) meaning victory and ‘äçìïò ’ (demos), meaning people. I am sure we are familiar with the Greek word ‘demos’ from which we have ‘democracy’. ‘Therefore, the meaning of Nicodemus is ‘the people’s victor’.
As we study this guy (Nike-Demos- the people’s victor, i.e. Nicodemus), I want us to examine how he changed from the:
People’s victor to God’s victor
‘What happened?’ is the question I want us to answer this morning.
Let us pray- Lord, like Nicodemus, we come to you this morning. May our meeting with you shed light into our relationship with you. We ask this prayer in the Name that is above all, your Name Jesus Christ- amen.
THE PEOPLE’S VICTOR
Nicodemus was indeed the people’s victor. In the eyes of his Jewish compatriots he was a victor. Victor in the sense that he had made it in life, achieved, what a typical Jew in first century Palestine would call achievements. From the Jewish societal standpoint at that time, he had reached a prestigious societal status- he had influence/power and money among his Jewish compatriots.
He was the people’s victor, in terms of his academic excellence. In the world of academia, he was a professor in the Jewish laws. Put in our contemporary context, he was a university professor in one of the Jewish universities. His academic achievements therefore got him a place in the prestigious Sanhedrin- the religious body that governed the Jews. He was not like some university professors today, he was rich. We will learn about his wealth later on, as the Gospel writer (John the Evangelist) makes an allusion of this in chapter 19 verse 39.
But one day, this people’s victor became God’s victor. How did it happen? He journeyed to Jesus one day. However, he chose to travel at night. Why? Some say, he was afraid of his fellow Sanhedrists (the religious leaders). Others say the night time symbolised his state and condition of his spiritual relation with God; night meaning darkness and evil. In other words, he had not got the light of God yet. All was therefore spiritually dark round him.
The Bible is however not explicit about his choice of time of travel. In joining the debate why he chose to travel at night, I will add the following:
Nicodemus chose a night time travel, because he wanted a private and personal time and conversation with Jesus.
He had seen Jesus during the day time- heard him teach, preach and seen his miracles out there in the public. Yet, he thought that a personal and private time with Jesus pays. He wanted some questions in his mind to be answered. He had read through and through, cover to cover the religious laws, yet he had some questions in his mind. He believed that Jesus, the Omnipotent (the one of infinite knowledge) will know the answers. Therefore, he chose to leave everything behind- his great knowledge in religious laws, the thoughts (arguments and counter-arguments) of his colleague university professors and other busy things he had, just to be with Jesus on a one-to-one basis, in the quite of the night devoid of disturbances and distractions.
THE BENEFITS OF NICODEMUS’ NIGHT TIME JOURNEY
Did his night time journey pay him any dividend? Yes, indeed! Nicodemus’ private and personal time with Jesus brought home something he had never heard of, despite his years of study and knowledge acquired. He did not fully understand all the Great Teacher was teaching him- he kept on enquiring and quizzing Jesus about the hard things and humanly impossible things he was teaching him.
I believe he went home, understanding Jesus (perhaps not in-depth) but believing what he taught him and accepting him as his true Lord and Messiah. In other words, he left Jesus as a changed person.