Nicodemus Comes By Night
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1-2, NKJV)
Nicodemus Comes By Night
Remember that the Pharisees were a sect of Judaism. They were stringent about keeping God’s Law as well as man’s tradition. During Jesus’ time, there were six thousand of them, all adhering to their religious rules and regulations.
There was a court of 70 of the highest and most influential Pharisees – this was known as the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus was a member of this elite group.
What we are going to see as we go through the gospel of John is that Nicodemus will become a disciple of Jesus. In chapter 7, we will see him sticking up for Jesus. The Pharisees tell some guys to grab Jesus, but they come back empty-handed. “Why didn’t you bring Him?” the Pharisees demand. “We’ve never heard a guy talk like this before!” they respond. “Oh, great! Have you been fooled by Him too? The people are ignorant and accursed! None of us intelligent higher-ups have believed in Him, have we? ” At that point, we read that Nicodemus chimes in:
“Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
They answered and said to him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.” (John 7:51-52)
Nicodemus comes by night, sneaking around in the dark. But, he was taking as bold a step as he could manage at the time, Nicodemus goes against the crowd to defend Christ. But by the time we get to chapter 19, we will see a bolder disciple – one of only two men who dared to take the body of Jesus and bury Him:
And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. (John 19:39)
So, this discussion here in chapter 3 must have been a conversation that eventually led to Nicodemus’ conversion!
3:2 By Night
Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. We have to wonder why John mentions that it was at night. He may have just been trying to avoid the crowds to have a quiet conversation. Both he and Jesus were busy during the day with their ministries, both teaching large groups of people during this Passover season. Maybe it was just the comfort of the cool evening that made it more pleasant to talk. But then again, it is more likely that he came under the cover of darkness to conceal his conversation with Christ from his coworkers. We know from chapter 12 that:
Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12 :42-43)
You know, the great thing about Jesus, though, is that night or day, you can come to Him – just so long as you do in fact come to Him. He didn’t say, “Hey Nick! Come back tomorrow at noon so all your friends can see you talking to me!” He dealt with him where he was at. Nicodemus comes by night because of fear. Jesus accepted him, and He accepts us right where we are.
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Nicodemus calls Him “Rabbi,” it means “my great one, my honorable sir,” as well as being a title with which the Jews addressed their teachers. Nicodemus is not coming with ulterior motives, but with genuine inquiry.
He says, “You are a teacher come from God.” This is a wonderful profession, yet we are going to see that He came to the right conclusion based on the wrong evidence.
Unless God Is With Him
This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2)
That sounds right, doesn’t it? Simple logic tells us that miracles can only happen if God is with someone, right? Wrong. Remember in the book of Exodus when Moses was sent to Pharaoh of Egypt to manifest ten signs of God? Moses had Aaron throw his staff down, and it became a serpent:
But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.Moses had Aaron turn all the water of the Nile into blood by striking his staff on the water. (Exodus 7:11-12)
Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments, and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said.
Moses had Aaron stretch out his hand over the waters, and frogs came up onto the land. (Exodus 7:22)
Each time, the magicians were making use of satanic power to perform these miracles. Of course, God is infinitely more powerful than Satan, and the magicians were able to duplicate no more of the miracles. But it shows us that we can be deceived by signs and wonders into believing that someone is from God when in fact they are not. In fact, the entire world will be deceived by the antichrist when he comes onto the scene. We read in 2 Thessalonians that his coming:
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10)
With all power, signs, and wonders. Just like the antichrist, the false prophet will also deceive many:
He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. (Revelation 13:13-14)
Deceived because of the signs. Nicodemus has found a teacher from God based on signs and wonders, but many also find messengers of hell using the same logic. Nicodemus comes by night to avoid the scrutiny of prying eyes. He will leave a changed man. This is what happens when we encounter the Lord Jesus.
Be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16, NASB)