Recently I had the opportunity to watch the first season of The Chosen, an independently produced (i.e., not Hollywood) TV series about the life and ministry of Jesus. I cannot recommend this series more highly. The production is high quality, the acting is excellent, and the characters are well-developed. And no character (at least in season 1) is developed more fully or is more intriguing than Nicodemus.
We know from the biblical account (John 3) that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. More than that, he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council. He was clearly an important Jewish spiritual leader. And even though it is still early in his ministry, Jesus has already run afoul of the Pharisees when he drove the money-changers and other merchants out of the temple (John 2:13-22).
John 3 tells us that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. We don’t know exactly why, but we do know that virtually every exchange Jesus had with the Pharisees in the daylight was antagonistic. Jesus criticized their empty spirituality and religiosity every chance he got. But Nicodemus was curious about Jesus. There was something different, something compelling about Jesus’ message and ministry that made Nicodemus want to know more. “No one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him,” he says in John 3:2.
Nicodemus was smart enough to realize that the power Jesus possessed was supernatural. But he was also smart enough to know that his fellow Pharisees would not have approved of him even giving the appearance of endorsing Jesus. So he came to Jesus in the dark with his questions. And Jesus patiently explains what it means to be born again, and guides Nicodemus toward the light of faith.
When we next see Nicodemus in John 7, he is risking his position, his privilege, and perhaps even his life to defend Jesus as the Pharisees seek to arrest him (vv. 50-52). We don’t see him again until John 19:38-42, when he joins Joseph of Arimathea in lovingly preparing Jesus’ body for burial. Nicodemus’ faith had clearly grown. It seems likely, in fact, that he had become a believer, a disciple of Christ.
Nicodemus was a well-educated man. He knew the scriptures. He was, by all outward signs, a deeply religious man. And yet he was spiritually dead and needed to be born again! He came to Jesus with a sense of wonder and awe. Unlike his fellow Pharisees, he had an open mind, and had to investigate Jesus for himself.
It’s an awesome thing when a person begins to feel concerned about the salvation of their soul. That concern is prompted by the convicting, convincing work of the Holy Spirit. It’s only when we know we are lost that we seek the way of salvation. Nicodemus seemed to have that concern, and Jesus helped his faith come alive.
There are more like Nicodemus walking among us today. They have heard about Jesus, and they are curious. They have questions, and want to know more. But they may also be skeptical, or afraid, and prefer to reach out in the shadows.
In these days of uncertainty and fear, let’s be on the lookout for the Nicodemus’s among us. Let’s be ready to help their faith come alive.
Prayer: Lord, we know that your Spirit is alive and at work in the hearts of people today. Make us ready, willing, and able to lead them to a deeper understanding of you...to help their faith come alive!