Have you ever looked at the story of Nicodemus? Most of us know him for one thing, and one thing alone. He was the Pharisee that came to Jesus at night in John 3 to discuss some things with Jesus. He comes at night because he was not willing to make his meeting with Jesus known to his fellow Pharisees. In other words, he thought there was something to Jesus and what He was trying to do, but Nicodemus was afraid of what this belief might cost him.
The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They didn’t even believe that He was a prophet. In fact, they held Him as a blasphemer, someone claiming to be God, and in so doing, condemning Himself. After Jesus’ resurrection, Jews that believed and made a public confession of belief in Jesus were kicked out of their families, their synagogues, and considered the scum of society.
Nicodemus was afraid of what this belief might cost him.
That is why Nicodemus was unwilling to make his potential belief in Jesus public. But his story goes much deeper than what we read in John 3. It is interesting to note that arguably the most widely known verse in the Bible comes from Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. John 3:16 is part of this conversation held under the cover of darkness. It reads;
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For most, this conversation ends, and Nicodemus is forgotten. But John actually mentions him by name on two separate occasions after this conversation. And when you read between the lines, one can argue the growth in belief and faith that Nicodemus has throughout Jesus’ three years of ministry.
In John 7, we see a story of the Jewish leaders, chief priests, and Pharisees actively trying to arrest Jesus. Jesus is able to slip away from the crowd, and the leaders are furious with the guards they sent to arrest Him. Their response is found in verses 47-49, which read;
47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
They are furious. And they are continuing to think highly of themselves while putting the common folk of the day under their feet. That’s when Nicodemus shows up again. He’s starting to stick his neck out a little and defend Jesus publicly, even if it is not in a direct manner. John records it this way in John 7:50,51;
50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”
He’s trying to argue they need to at least talk to Jesus first, before they arrest and condemn Him. Of course this doesn’t go over well with the other Pharisees. They respond like typical Pharisees, but we don’t see much more of the situation unfold in the text.
Nicodemus is starting to stick his neck out a little and defend Jesus publicly, even if it is not in a direct manner.
The next and last time that Nicodemus is named in scripture actually comes after the crucifixion of Jesus. And this time, when he is named, Nicodemus appears all in. He’s putting his neck out there, and there is no denying where he stands in regard to his belief and acceptance of who Jesus is. It’s easy to miss, because we focus in on the first name in the story. Joseph of Arimathea. Of course, we know that name as the man that went to Pilate for the body of Jesus, in order to bury Jesus. But did you know that Nicodemus was with Joseph. He not only accompanied Joseph, making it clear that he respected Jesus, his actions proved that he was willing to pay a price for following Him; figuratively and literally. John 19:38-42 records the story;
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
He brought the mixture of spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. 75 pounds worth. These spices were not cheap. He publicly was helping bury Jesus, and paying for the materials to prepare Jesus’s body.
When we first see Nicodemus, he is clearly intrigued by Jesus, but he is afraid of what it might cost him in reputation. By the end something has completely changed. He is willing to act out in the open, not caring what it cost him, because Jesus had become real to him. It didn’t matter to Nicodemus if the other Pharisees condemned him. He didn’t care what following Jesus cost him monetarily. In fact, through his actions, we can know that the only thing that Nicodemus cared about in the end is who Jesus was.
We can learn a lot from Nicodemus.