Have you read John 3 recently? We have studied Nicodemus' conversation with Jesus many times. Often that study examines the incident under our spiritual microscope. We focus on the new birth and the Spirit. That certainly is a basic, valid concern in understanding that scripture. But it is easy to be so focused on the subject of the conversation that we never consider the situation. It also teaches us a basic lesson.

Personally, I regard Nicodemus a man of courage. He was a member of Israel's highest court, the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. In theory, that court was formed from the seventy best scholars in Israel. They supposedly had Israel's best minds and best educated perspectives. Their influential rulings bound devout Jews in all nations. Nicodemus was one of these seventy men.

This court declared Jesus to be dangerously controversial. Eventually this court sought and acquired Jesus' execution. We know of only two men on that court who looked with favor on Jesus. Nicodemus was one of them.

Perhaps Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because Nicodemus' peers found Jesus objectionable. Perhaps he went at night because Jesus' popularity with the masses made a meaningful, private conversation impossible during the day. Whatever the reason, he went with genuine respect and appreciation of Jesus' deeds. "God sent you. No one can perform your miracles unless God is with him."

Capture the scene. This learned man acknowledged that Jesus came from God. Jesus replied to him in specifics, not parables. He was capable of having a "peer" conversation with Jesus. So Jesus stressed the importance of the new birth. Nicodemus was immediately confused. Jesus marveled. In essence, Jesus' asked, "How can you know so much and understand so little?"

I sympathize with Nicodemus. Each time I better understand scripture, I ask myself the same question. I wonder if Jesus would not ask most of us the same question.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 18 May 1997

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