Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish Council, appears in three passages in the Bible. John writes all three. Clearly John wants us to know about Nicodemus. This is the only book that Nicodemus shows up in.
We first hear about Nicodemus when he comes to Jesus at night. This suggests he doesn’t want his Pharisee friends and fellow Council members to know he’s talking to a man that most religious leaders despise. They view Jesus as a heretic, an irritant, and a threat to their religion.
Though Nicodemus desperately wants to talk to Jesus, he’s afraid of the repercussions if the religious hierarchy finds out. That’s why he sneaks through the dark to find Jesus.
After Nicodemus commends Jesus for who he is and what he does, Jesus answers a question Nicodemus hasn’t asked. Jesus says, “You must be born again if you hope to see the kingdom of God.”
“What! How can a person be born a second time? Impossible.”
Jesus launches into an intriguing explanation about being born of water and the spirit, about flesh birthing flesh and spirit birthing spirit. He talks about earthly things and heavenly things, about Moses lifting the bronze snake in the wilderness to save the people, and the Son of Man (Jesus) being lifted as well. “Everyone who believes in me will have eternal life.”
Jesus ends by talking about truth and light, implying that Nicodemus needs to stop sneaking around in the dark. John doesn’t record Nicodemus’s response.
Later Jesus is arrested and brought before the Council. Nicodemus suggests that Jesus deserves a fair trial. Instead of following Nicodemus’s wise advice, they verbally attack him.
A few days later, we see Nicodemus going with Joseph (from Arimathea) to give Jesus’s body a proper burial.
These actions present risk for Nicodemus, physically and vocationally. Surely this suggests that Nicodemus supports Jesus and embraces his teaching.
What risks are we willing to take for Jesus?
[Discover more about Nicodemus in John 3:1–21, John 7:45–52, and John 19:38–42. Learn about the bronze snake in Numbers 21:9.]
Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.