March 6, 2011

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

John 3: 1-21 (NIV)

“1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”


In my early teens I worked in a hospital with my mother. We worked together in the Recovery Room (the place patients wake up after surgery), which proved to be a great foundation for my career. The nurses and physicians were not only great people, but a wealth of knowledge during my years in nursing school. Several have turned into life-long friends whom I keep in contact with still today.

I smile as I ponder fond memories of one anesthesiologist in particular. A short older man with more salt than peppered hair, Dr. Melgard was the Alex Trebek of our post anesthesia unit. Not every time but at his random choosing, he'd accompany a patient into the unit, hand the patient over to the nurse, and meander over to the nurses desk. Reserved and unassuming, he'd capture our attention by quizzing us for a definition of some odd and obscure word. He'd choose words no average person ever heard let alone be able to define and I don't recall our ever knowing any of his words right off the bat, which is what made it so fun. We were all on the same playing field as we'd each pitch forth a hypothetical definition that seemed to fit by saying something like, "That sounds like a new fangled thing you'd wash your face with" or "That sounds like an exotic animal that lives in a tree along the Nile River." It was hilarious to hear all the descriptions our ignorant but well meaning minds would concoct. No one but Dr. Melgard knew the real answer and he never let on. Once we were done guessing he'd reveal the word's true definition, which invariably made our bizarre answers all the more comical. Dr. M was a warm, humble, and approachable man. He taught me no question was silly or stupid if I didn't know the answer, making me all the more likely to pick his brain for information. I love and miss Dr. Melgard. He was my personal Jeopardy host.

As Dr. Melgard made me feel welcome to approach, Jesus seemed to have the same affect on Nicodemus. I used to think Nicodemus' "Nic at Night" approach was more cowardly than courageous, but have since changed my mind. Yes, it's possible he was a coward, but it's also entirely plausible curiosity and conviction drew him to his long awaited Messiah. After all, he was a high ranking ruler of the Jews and coming to Jesus in broad day light could have sparked serious turmoil, whereas a nightly visit offered more privacy and less opposition from his fellow Jewish leaders. He sought truth over drama and I admire his gutsy wisdom to seek light in the midst of great darkness.

Nicodemus' few questions were met with a holy discourse and I suspect he left Jesus that night with his mind a whirl, faced with the daunting notion of a Spirit that is like a wind and the mind scorching vision of rebirth. (That one seemed to blow his mind most of all bless his heart.) Imagine the expression on his face as he walked through the inky black night. My mind's eye sees him traversing the terrain with a slow jerky gait, much like a mummy, with eyes wide as an owl's and jaw slightly ajar. You can't tell me the cloak of darkness wasn't his ally at this point in time.

This particular story doesn't state how Nicodemus received these words from Jesus this fateful night, but his later actions do. As a man of quiet power, he defended Jesus before the Jews as the Sanhedrin plotted to kill Him (John 7:25-52) and later teamed up with Joseph of Arimathea to provide 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes to prepare Jesus' body for burial. (John 19:38-42) He risked his life to defend Jesus in front of the Jewish leaders and later honor his Savior at His death and burial. This grants evidence that his stealthy visit did in fact change his heart forever. Choosing moonlight over the spot light, he followed Christ with exemplary faith, making me sorry I ever doubted this nocturnal scout.


What spiritual concept or life's circumstance perplexes your heart as much as Jesus's description of rebirth dumbfounded Nicodemus? Are you choosing to belief anyway?

Do you feel you can approach Jesus at any time and with any thing whether it's broad daylight or the middle of the night? If not, why not?

How do you defend and honor Christ in your life behind the scenes and out of the spotlight?

1 comment:

Cheryl Barker said...

I either didn't know or had forgotten about the later signs of Nicodemus's belief in Christ. Also, liked your insight on why he might have come to see Jesus at night. Good stuff! :)