Short Meditations in John 3: 1. Nicodemus the man
Jn 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.
Just a reminder as we go into the third chapter that these are short meditations that will go verse by verse – one verse at a time. As we enter the chapter so we enter a completely new incident and we are introduced to a man: ”There was a man.” I think Nicodemus often gets a hard press with preachers who show him up as a rather slow witted recipient of Jesus’ teaching, but I think that is unfair to him. Like you and me he’s just a man and sometimes spiritual realities are beyond mere human wisdom. Indeed again and again, as we have already seen in John, Jesus said things that were beyond human wisdom. So why does he say them? To test us and see what our reaction is, I guess is one answer. So go easy on Nicodemus; remember he is just a human being like you and me. But having said that, we will hold him accountable as we each must be!
But he’s not just any man, he is a Pharisee. Now I know we are sometimes hard with the Pharisees because they were one of the main groups opposing Jesus but it was because they were conservative believers and they struggled with the things Jesus said. But the truth is that they sought to be the guardians of the Law and whereas others were casual about it, they were not. So they had good intentions, even if they were a little misguided. But I can’t help feeling that any religious group who has strong beliefs can fall into the trap they fell into. Catholics are strong on upholding Catholicism’s traditions, evangelical Protestants are strong on upholding the Bible and salvation by grace alone and Pentecostals are strong on defending the work of the Holy Spirit. But have we become locked into our way of doing things and have we made idols of our beliefs so that we cannot see the bigger picture that Jesus seeks to convey?
Nicodemus is also a member of the ruling council and therein is yet another area of potential pitfall. I have met rulers, of councils and of companies, and they are more often than not people to be respected. They have been there, done it all and are men and women of experience and knowledge. They know things and often have a lofty viewpoint that many of us don’t have. But often they don’t have God’s viewpoint and there they can come adrift. Having to admit that you are wrong or haven’t got the whole picture can be hard when all your life is given over to knowing and getting it right. So don’t be too hard when we get to the point where Nicodemus is stumbling to understand. We’re like him! We’re human, we may be conservative believers and we may be power people, and therefore we may be slow to catch Jesus’ teaching.