Many people would not go to hear Jesus. They did not believe he could be the Son of God. But one old man named Nicodemus was puzzled. Late one night, he crept through the shadows to hear Jesus for himself.
Jesus knew Nicodemus was seeking the truth. "God so loved the world, Nicodemus, that he sent his only son. Anyone who believes in me will live with God forever. To be in God's kingdom, you must be born again. Your heart will become new when God's Spirit fills it."
Jesus said anybody, even an old man, could start a new life.
The conversion of Nicodemus is one of the Bible's most touching accounts. It is evidence of the transforming power of Jesus Christ and what He can do to the heart that seeks truth and longs for more than this world can deliver. The English translation of the name Nicodemus in its original language means "innocent blood." The nineteenth chapter of John reveals why it is a perfect fit.
Nicodemus makes three appearances in the Bible, each in the Gospel of John. He is known as the man who came to Jesus by night in chapter 3. The "Most Precious Verse" in God's Word, John 3:16, comes when Jesus preaches truth to a lost soul comfortable and successful in worldly trappings. Nicodemus surfaces again in John 7:50-52, when, during a meeting with fellow Sanhedrin council members, he raises a procedural point in Jesus' favor. Nevertheless, he was still a Pharisee and likely yet unconverted.
Nicodemus' final appearance (John 19:39-42) reveals that the seed Jesus planted by night blossoms in the light of a gloomy day: Nicodemus forsakes his religion by wrapping and burying the crucified body of his Lord.
It all started at night, when Nicodemus came to the Light. He knew of Jesus' cleansing of the temple and the "signs" Jesus had performed. Jesus called Nicodemus "the teacher of Israel." Nicodemus was among his nation's most highly regarded men.
"Rabbi," Nicodemus said to Jesus, "We know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Nicodemus suffered spiritual blindness, yes, but at least he had his eyes open.
"Nicodemus was a prominent man. Anyone in Nicodemus' position would be an unlikely candidate for the position of Jesus' follower," writes Leon Morris in the New International Commentary of the New Testament. "As 'the teacher of Israel' (John 3:10), it would never do for him to commit himself to the unofficial Teacher from Galilee, not at any rate until he was absolutely sure of his ground. If this is the explanation, it is not without its interest that Jesus says nothing in condemnation. He was content to receive Nicodemus just as he was."
Jesus dispenses with formalities and cuts to the heart of the matterNicodemus' heart: "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Jesus knows why Nicodemus is visiting, and he quickly answers before being asked. Yet Nicodemus' transformation appears to have been slow. Perhaps he listened to Jesus' insistence on a new birth and then searched the Scriptures about the Messiah. His only conclusion could have been that those Scriptures were being lived out before him.
However, Nicodemus does not manifest his devotion to Jesus until after Christ's crucifixion. Along with fellow Pharisee Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus retrieves Jesus' body from the cross and prepares it for burial. The wealthy Nicodemus donates the fabulous amount of one-hundred Roman pounds of expensive myrrh and aloes to coat Jesus' body; properly, it was an amount usually reserved for kings. With Passover only hours away, Nicodemus had forsaken his religion of law because he knew the beaten and pierced figure in his arms was the Son of God. The blood streaked on Nicodemus' robe had covered the sin of the world. In his old way of life, Nicodemus was now unclean. In his new eternal life, he was now unblemished.
"He was willing openly to share with Jesus the shame of his cross,'' writes Henry H. Halley in Halley's Bible Handbook. "His coming out of the shadows in the hour of Jesus' humiliation, when even the Twelve had fled to cover, risking his own life in that tender final ministry, is one of the noblest incidents of Scripture."
Today, Nicodemus is still the teacher. We learn from him that Jesus is always there for us, night or day. We learn that in God's perfect timing He will answer our most confounding questions. We learn that regardless of our status in this world, there is nothing more important than the regenerative life of Christ within us. We learn that no matter how great our own sacrifice, it can never compare to Jesus Christ's. And we learn that to live for Christ requires great sacrifice indeed.
It is at the cross and grave of Jesus where Nicodemus finally and boldly manifests his salvation and shows he is mighty in spirit. It is there that, as a gray sky released rain drops that may as well have been tears from heaven, Nicodemus wraps and wraps the lifeless body of Jesus. It is there that across a once-pious robe is smeared the only truly innocent blood.