He stood spiritually confident. As a leader and teacher others looked to him for guidance and instruction. A network of like-minded people reinforced and bolstered his theological understanding and outlook. History even supported them. Standing at the end of long-generations of religious fervor and diligence, faith was serious business among his ilk. If anyone could rest assured and confident in what he believed and how faith played out daily, it was him.
Yet something troubled him. More accurately, someone troubled him. Not in the sense of an opponent that incited anger and animosity. Rather of one who spoke truth in a way that solicited sympathy and contemplation. This man made him think. His troubler obviously thought and taught free of the assumptions that plagued himself. He had to learn more.
So, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3). If he had questions, he never had a chance to ask. Immediately on the heels of his flattering greeting of the Nazarene Rabbi, Nicodemus was confronted with a solemn and startling assertion that defied understanding; “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). How could one possibly be birthed more than once? The logistics alone were beyond ludicrous; re-entry into your mother’s womb? Physical birth, to Nicodemus and his brethren, held the key to it all.
Jesus toppled this assumption proclaiming another birth–a spiritual one, birth by water and Spirit. This opened God’s kingdom’s door (v. 5). Faith in Jesus, not physical descent, holds the key (v. 15).
John doesn’t record what Nicodemus did next. We do know he did not reject Jesus’ novel teaching (though Jesus chided him as one who ought to know better, v. 10). He appears later in John’s account, appealing to his peers for fair and honest treatment of this hated man (7:50-51) and again at His death, showing deference (19:39).
Nicodemus is important as a man who demonstrated the all-too-rare quality of intellectual and emotional honesty. Jesus’ truth meant upheaval for Nicodemus’s life. He unquestionably struggled, but he didn’t walk away. Nicodemus, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), showed the noble heart God admires.
May this tribe increase!