There is a personage in the Bible who does not get much press! I refer to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews, with whom Jesus met and taught that we must be born again. Nicodemus, at that time being a secret follower of Jesus, came to him by night. I am sure he feared repercussions with his fellow Pharisees and visited under cover of night to avoid a “showdown.” During that meeting, Nicodemus made a very important assertion, which is found in John 3: 2, “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, WE KNOW that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him.” And who are the WE in “WE KNOW?” Of course, it is his fellow ruling Pharisees in the Sanhedrin. So, although they knew Jesus was sent from God, they constantly tried to get him to say that He was the Son of God, so they might accuse Him of blasphemy.
Nicodemus is mentioned on one more occasion in the Bible in connection with the burial of Jesus. In John 19: 39 & 40, we read, “And there came also Nicodemus, which AT THE FIRST came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then they took the body of Jesus and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” The phrase, AT THE FIRST, suggests to me that Nicodemus was no longer a secret disciple of Jesus but confessed Him openly. Is there any proof of this or is it only speculation?
There is a book called, “Nicodemus”, which was presumably written by him as a witness to the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection. This book was not considered worthy to be included in the Bible, but it does provide some more detail on the trial of Jesus that was conducted before Pilate. It does not touch on the trial before the Sanhedrin where a series of false witnesses testified and where Jesus was accused of blasphemy.
The first charge against Jesus was that He was a conjuror because the wife of Pilate was upset and beseeched him to have nothing to do with Jesus. The second charge was that Jesus was born through fornication. There were two aspects to the charge relating to fornication; namely, that the children of Bethlehem were killed because of His birth and his parents fled to Egypt because they could not trust their own people. Then the book records, “Some of the Jews who stood by spake more favourably, We cannot say that He was born through fornication; but we know that His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, and so He was not born through fornication.” The two high priests, Annas and Ciaphas, accused the twelve of being proselytes and followers of Jesus, which the twelve denied (all twelve are named in the book) and reaffirmed that Mary and Joseph were betrothed and therefore, there was no fornication. Pilate took the twelve aside and asked why the Jews had a mind to kill Jesus. The answer comes in chapter 2:17, “They answered him, They are angry because He wrought cures on the Sabbath day. Pilate said, Will they kill Him for a good work? They say unto him, Yes Sir.”
Chapters three and four follow the Bible account of Pilate trying to release Jesus but chapter 5 adds some interesting details. It begins thus; “But Nicodemus a certain Jew, stood before the governor and said, I entreat thee, 0 righteous judge, that thou would favour me with the liberty of speaking a few words.” Because of space, I present an abbreviated speech by Nicodemus, highlighting the essence. “Nicodemus said, I spake to the elders of the Jews and the scribes and priests and Levites and all the multitude of the Jews in their assembly; What is it you would do with this man? He is a man who has wrought many useful and glorious miracles, such as no man on earth ever wrought before, nor will ever work. Let Him go and do Him no harm; if He cometh from God, His miracles (His miraculous cures) will continue; but if from men, they will come to naught. And now let this man go for the very miracles for which ye accuse Him are from God; and He is not worthy of death.”
Verses 8 through 11 show a surprising result. “And the Jews said to Nicodemus; Art thou become His disciple and making speeches in His favour? Nicodemus said to them, Is the governor become His disciple also and does he make speeches for Him? Did not Ceasar place him in that high post? When the Jews heard this, they trembled and gnashed their teeth at Nicodemus and said to him; Mayest thou receive His doctrine for truth and have thy lot with Christ! Nicodemus replied, Amen: I will receive His doctrine, and my lot with Him, as ye have said.” These are words of a committed disciple of Christ, willing to die with Him, believing he would be born again into Christ’s Kingdom.
Nicodemus inspired a number of recipients of miracles to also speak before the governor; I shall not list them but there were twelve that we have all read about in the gospels. After hearing that Joseph of Arimathea had buried the body of Christ, they called for all those who had testified before Pilate, and all of them hid themselves except Nicodemus. And he was aggressive! He said, “How can persons such as these enter the synagogue? The Jews answered him, How durst thou enter the synagogue who was a confederate with Christ? Let thy lot be along with Him in the other world. Nicodemus answered, Amen: so may it be that I may have my lot with Him in His kingdom.” And there we have the double witness of Nicodemus’ love of the Saviour.
There is no doubt in my mind that Nicodemus was a racially pure Israelite, because the Good Shepherd said, ” My sheep know my voice.” And He was sent to the ‘lost’ sheep of the House of Israel. In an earlier essay, we offered the point of view that ‘lost’ meant spiritually, not geographically.
Nicodemus was a lost sheep, found by the Saviour, and willing to follow Him to the grave, to be born again entering His kingdom. May we all suffer the same fate!