Nicodemus, a Pharisee

Oct 09, 2017

Nicodemus is mentioned three times in the Gospel of John. The first time Nicodemus, a Pharisee, appears in John 3:1-21 he comes to Jesus at night, affirming that Jesus must have come from God because otherwise He wouldn’t be able to do all the signs and miracles of His ministry. Jesus replies, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Nicodemus is trying to imagine how that could happen, “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” And then Jesus talks of “being born of the water and the Spirit.” And Nicodemus, still baffled asks, “How can this be?” Jesus teases him, “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?…you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

Don’t you think that Nicodemus is very much in his critical mind trying to imagine another physical birth through his mother’s womb?  He is taking Jesus’ teachings literally. He can’t imagine things on a spiritual plane; he can’t imagine being born into a new life in Christ. And yet, this is his first engagement with Jesus. Obviously, he knows a lot about what Jesus is doing and saying.  As we will see from later texts, this encounter with the living Jesus will convert him, will cause him to be born again. He will step outside of the community of Pharisees and many Jews of his day—this we will see. Amazingly, he was a member of the ruling council of the Pharisees.

This first time he came at night, under the cover of darkness, to see if Jesus could answer the questions he had. He doesn’t bring his fellow Pharisees. He doesn’t call attention to himself in the Jewish community. But he is interested enough to come to see Jesus.

In the second reference to Nicodemus in John 7:45-52, the Jewish leaders are arguing with the temple guards, saying, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” The guards replied, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” Jesus’ teachings and healings were causing a lot of controversy in the Jewish community. Now the leaders wanted to arrest Jesus. But Nicodemus asked, “does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” And his fellow rulers responded, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

Here Nicodemus is defending Jesus, suggesting that they first hear him out and then decide. But his compatriots are ridiculing him(and Jesus who is also from Galilee) in return. Here he is “coming out” to the Pharisees by defending Jesus. No longer the skeptic, he is now a defender, willing to shed light on his own opinion of Jesus.

In the third appearance of Nicodemus in John 19:38-42, after Jesus’ death on the cross, Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea, to the cross where Jesus died, to claim his body and prepare it for burial. Both of them were members of the Sanhedrin which had condemned Jesus to death. They both risked ritual uncleanliness by touching His body. Nicodemus brings seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes for wrapping Jesus’ body with straps of linen. Today’s value of 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes is $150,000-200,000. []

Then they laid him in the tomb. Both are caring for and fully honoring Jesus and symbolically his teachings and all that He is. Nicodemus’ gift is huge and one of great love and respect from a Pharisee – whose compatriots had just sentenced him to die.

Perhaps you think that I am making too much of Nicodemus’s conversion, but it is clear to me that the Pharisee who first came under the cover of darkness to question Jesus, and then defended him to his fellow Pharisees, now is willing to appear in public risking everything, at the foot of the cross, with a loving burial wrap.

Doesn’t Nicodemus exemplify our own stages of acceptance of Jesus and his teachings? At first he is drawn to talk to Jesus, but he is full of doubt and can’t hear what Jesus is saying, What Jesus said didn’t meet his expectations, the way he thinks as a leader of the Jews. Later we see Nicodemus defending Jesus and asking that the law be applied to him, that he be given a hearing while his fellow Pharisees are ready to condemn him. Now Nicodemus can hear and see what Jesus means and he stands up for Jesus. Along with the temple guards he is standing in awe of the man in question—“No one ever spoke the way this man did.” And they listened.

In the second instance Nicodemus is well on his way to conversion. And at the foot of the cross, helping Joseph of Arimithea to carry Jesus’ body to the tomb and to ritually wrap in in linen and myrrh and aloes, he is totally committed. We can see his commitment in his actions. From doubt, but interest to defending him to all-out care for him—that, too is our process!


Questions to ponder over the week: How do I see my own growing commitment to Jesus? What stages have I gone through? What do I have to address next with Him? What issue is God calling me to look at now? What is my deepest longing? And am I focused on realizing that longing? Do I know that the longing in me was planted by God Himself?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are growing in our faith from interest and questions to the commitment of 100% of ourselves to God. May we be devoted, be faithful, be true to our Lord. May we bring all the love we are capable of to God and then enjoy His love as it flows through us and out to the world.



Check out my new book, “Exodus: Our Story, Too,” at or on under my full name, Patricia Said Adams. The book reveals the template, the stages, of our journey in God from slavery to the world to the kingdom of God. Too often we stop short, maybe way short, of where God would take us. Read about how far we might actually go, if we would totally trust God. This week I will be adding a free study guide to the book for individuals or groups.
If you contributed to the book and want to buy it, I’ll happily refund $5.00 of the purchase price. Just message me your address when you buy it and I’ll send you a check.

Check out the archives of my blog going back to 2011 on this page.



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