Nicodemus was religious. He was a Pharisee. The Pharisees get bad press, and as they are recorded in Scripture, there is much about them not to admire. But, we need to remember their basic, initial intention. They were to be a separated people, wholly devoted to the laws of God.
The Pharisees were not a big group. In fact, there were never more than 6,000 at one time. They were sort of an elite brotherhood who separated themselves from ordinary life to really devote themselves to the perfect keeping of the laws of God and of the scribes. Gamaliel was a Pharisee, and a good man. Paul, the apostle, was a Pharisee. And Nicodemus was a Pharisee.
Nicodemus had influence. He was a “ruler of the Jews,” which probably means he was a member of the Sanhedrin. That was the highest council of the Jewish people. We know that, politically, the Romans were in charge. But, in a spiritual sense, the Sanhedrin had jurisdiction over every Jew in the world. So it was quite an honor to be in the Sanhedrin. But a powerful life does not necessarily mean a purposeful life.
Nicodemus had education. A prerequisite for membership in the Sanhedrin was through academic training by the finest Rabbis in the land. But a sea of diplomas do not guarantee a sense of direction.
He is “THE” teacher. This is a subtle thing, but notice that in John 3:10 Jesus said, “You are “THE” teacher in Israel.” Apparently Nicodemus was considered to be very astute in religious matters. And the people considered him “their teacher.” He was considered the preeminent teacher in Israel. In fact, later, in John 7, notice that Nicodemus knew the law very well.
Nicodemus had money. In John 19, we read of how Nicodemus took Jesus’ body and buried it in 75 pounds of expensive spices that the common people couldn’t afford. In fact, the amount was so much, it was usually reserved for kings. Nicodemus had a lot of money, but you can have a lot of money and not have a lot of meaning in life.
Most people believe that if you get more of all of those things, life will work. And if it doesn’t, there is one more thing you could have, and Nicodemus had it.
And so the question then is this: why is this man, who has everything, coming at night to see a man who has nothing? And the answer is: all of those things that Nicodemus had are external, and they have nothing to do with really being alive. Nicodemus was still missing something. Nicodemus did not have life. He needed to be born again to have true life (John 3:3).
A prayer for today: Lord, it is not this world, nor the things in and of this world, that give us life. You have provided life through Your son. No matter how great we are in this life, without You we have no life. We thank You and praise You for Your wonderful love for us. Amen.