John 3 – Who Was Nicodemus?

Who Was Nicodemus?Nicodemus is a Pharisee, described as a teacher and leader of the people, and a member of the Sanhedrin. While he is mentioned again in John 7:50-52 (defending Jesus in Jerusalem, briefly) and John 19:39-42 (the burial of Jesus), nothing else about him from church history.

His name was probably Naqdimon in Hebrew / Aramaic, and it does not appear to have been common. Richard Bauckham surveyed all occurrences of the name in the Rabbinic literature and Josephus and concluded that all refer to the same family (ben-Gurioin), a wealthy, philanthropic from Jerusalem before A.D. 70. There are several opulent priestly homes excavated around the Temple Mount (the Burnt House, the Caiaphas’ house, etc.) which indicate that a man like Nicodemus could have been well-placed socially in the aristocracy of Jerusalem.

Does Nicodemus become a believer as a result of his encounter with Jesus? An impressive number of scholars describe Nicodemus as a timid follower of Jesus, a secret follow who slowly realizes that Jesus is the true Messiah. But as Andreas Köstenberger points out, John does not use term “believer” to describe Nicodemus, nor is does he give testimony to the true nature of Jesus. Other than his involvement at the burial of Jesus, there is little to suggest he is anything more than a respectful Jewish rabbi similar to Gamaliel in Acts 5. Nicodemus may be interested in Jesus, but never truly believes he is the Messiah.

Is Nicodemus polite and friendly, or is he looking to trap Jesus? His words are similar to the scribes in Matthew 22:16 who say they know Jesus is a teacher from God, but are trying to trap Jesus. That Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night does not mean he was embarrassed to be seen with Jesus. Jewish teachers in the first century often gathered in the cool evening to discuss Scripture. Rather than engage Jesus in a crowd (as the Pharisees do in Matthew), Nicodemus comes privately to talk with Jesus in a non-confrontational setting.

There is a difference between Nicodemus who says “we know…” and Jesus’s authoritative statement “I say to you…” It is possible Nicodemus represents a faction of Pharisees who were interested in Jesus as a teacher. It is the case that Jesus’s teaching is close to the Pharisees in many ways and that there were Pharisees who became followers of Jesus after the resurrection (Acts 15:1-2). It is also possible disciples of both Nicodemus and Jesus were presented at the meeting John 3. Therefore Nicodemus is asking on behalf of his group, Jesus is responding as an authority.

Nicodemus is therefore an example of an interested observer, a friendly but ultimately unconvinced witness to Jesus. But he never confesses faith in Jesus. The purpose of the dialogue with Nicodemus is not to condemn all Jews as unbelievers, in fact, it is probably the opposite. Some Jews were interested in Jesus and friendly towards him, even if they failed to understand fully who Jesus was.

This view of Nicodemus is connected to the purpose of the Gospel of John. According to John 20:30-31 John wrote so the reader would believe and make a decision to follow Jesus. The example of Nicodemus is a warning to the reader: one can be friendly toward the claims of Christ without accepting them.

If this was a challenge to the original readers of John, it is especially challenging for modern readers of the Gospel. Jesus is still asking, “What do you want with me?”

 

Bibliography: R. Bauckham, “Nicodemus and the Gurion Family,” JTS 47 (1996): 1-37.

[A brief post-script: I am aware that Nicodemus is sainted in both Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I do not find anything of historical value in these traditions. It is entirely likely Nicodemus was an older man when he met Jesus, so he may have died of natural causes prior to soon after the resurrection. Thanks for the correction, Jeff!]

27 thoughts on “John 3 – Who Was Nicodemus?

  1. Regarding your post-script where you say Nicodemus may have died prior to the Resurrection, John tells us that he provides spices for Jesus’ burial so he was still alive on Friday afternoon. Are you suggesting he died some time between then and Sunday? That is certainly possible, but seems a bit specific for speculation.

    • Thanks Jeff, you are absolutely correct. Perhaps I meant “soon after.” That post is three and a half years old and no one has pointed that out to me (and I will fix it so no one will ever no how dumb I was then).

  2. I agree. Moreover, I find it hard to believe that someone of the stature of Nicodemus was a disciple of Jesus without any further mention being made of him in the canonical writings, such as the epistles.

  3. To me, Nicodemus’s encounter with Jesus was based off curiosity and his longing to get some answers. Although in the beginning of their conversation it did seem as the conversation could have gone many different ways. One way gave the expression that Nicodemus approached Jesus with a sense of authority claiming to have known Jesus. This expression exhibits an aggressive tone behind Nicodemus words and almost feels confrontational. As Kostenberger explains it’s difficult to tell what were Nicodemus intentions when he said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who comes from God” (Kostenberger, 83). The conversation signals both a sense of curiosity but also gives a feeling that Nicodemus was condemning Jesus in a way. Further, in their conversation it still wasn’t clear if Nicodemus was there to learn from Jesus or lecture Him. The dialogue used in John makes it hard to determine the expressions behind their statements. Nicodemus continued using “We” statements notifying Jesus of the knowledge they’ve obtained about Him. On the contrary, Jesus uses “I” statements teaching Nicodemus that he is the true source of information. Eventually, Jesus won that battle and Nicodemus began to be well engaged in the conversation giving Jesus his full attention. By asking questions and showing a concern for his faith and what he has known to be.

  4. Nicodemus is a man of different nature than that of Jesus. Jesus was born into the Jewish society, but on the poorer end of the spectrum. He is still a teacher, but a teacher of men. Nicodemus, on the other hand, is on the opposite spectrum of Jewish society as he is a powerful member of society, but he also a teacher, but a teacher of his people. Because of this, “Jesus and Nicodemus are engaged in what might be called an acute power struggle,” (Kostenberger, 68). I believe that because if this, it was difficult for the two to communicate. This is what Nicodemus came at night as explained in John 3:2, “he came to Jesus at night.” Because of their positions in society, this is the means as to how Nicodemus has to communicator so as not to be judged for it if the higher powered people found out. I think that through all of this, this is why Nicodemus probably did not become a believer, but was rather interested in what Jesus had to say because he had that longing in his heart for something more, but even still, he was ashamed to admit it, so he came at night. Also, he had a higher status and I think that he did not want to give that up, so he never fully believed because he had power and was ashamed for people to see him with Jesus.

  5. The teachings of Jesus are often seen as deep and authoritative and cryptic, but they are often neglected as being practical and applicable to literally every individual. As Nicodemus saw Jesus merely as a teacher who perhaps had the authority to teach and illuminate the Scriptures, he–along with many people of our contemporary world–did not believe that he was the Word sent from heaven. And that is a crucial distinction to make. I think, particularly because one of the most famous passages about salvation is found there, many people assume Nicodemus was converted after his conversation with Jesus. The reality is, he was simply concerned with the teaching of Jesus, what Jesus had to say, but not with who Jesus was as a person. That is ultimately the attitude many nonbelievers maintain when thinking about Jesus. They believe He was highly intelligent and a good leader. Perhaps they even consider themselves a believer simply because they have made a considerable intellectual assent. But Jesus does not care so much about whether or not we accept the facts of His ministry. He is mainly concerned about a spiritual birth or a “birth from above”, which can only occur if we give Him our heart, so to speak. He wants us to acknowledge that He is God, and this is what He was trying to convince Nicodemus of. Nicodemus wanted to know if Jesus had the authority to teach and illuminate the Scriptures; the way Jesus responded, however, reveals that He knew that He was the embodiment of the Word. Not only does Jesus have the authority to teach the Word, but He has the authority to be the Word of God, His only Son, the only means by which we can obtain salvation. Kostenberger, in speculating about the position of Nicodemus in relation to Jesus, argues that John does not refer to him as a believer, but only as a interested observer. Unfortunately, but for good reason, even today God is not allowing merely interested people to enter His heavenly bliss. He wants people who know Him personally.

  6. It is an interesting angle to point out that John’s intension of shareing the story of Nicodemus was to show that we can be freindly and accepting of what Jesus is teaching or who he is, but never truly accept it for ourselves. I have never thought about the story that way. I had always thought that Nicodemus truley wanted to know what Jesus was about and wanted to belive and had always assumed that because of his mention in Jesus’s burial. It seems to me that this really reflects a lot of people in the world today, many are okay with Jesus and who he says he is but don’t really beleive in him. A lot of people who call themselves Christians seem to act like that as well. I still wonder why if Nicodemus still hadn’t believed in Jesus as the Messiah, why he would risk losing his reputation by helping out with the burial of Jesus and by providing him with insence.

    • hey Seth, I really enjoyed your post as you talked about how Nicodemus can seem interested in Jesus’ teachings but never excepted it for himself. that was a good point that you made that I didn’t think about. he is a very interesting fellow as he did things that he would lose his pharisee reputation for in helping and talking with Jesus.

  7. want to bring up that Nicodemus was known around the village, and the city. Nicodemus was known to be very smart, someone of great wisdom yet when he encounters Jesus we see that he almost sounds like a child. “Can we enter a second time into our mother’s womb?” (John 3:4). Although Nicodemus asks these questions, it makes me really wonder if he was trying to test Jesus. John makes it really hard to find out if Nicodemus is really a believer or if he was just around to “play the part”. I do not think that Nicodemus was indeed curious, I think that he was trying to push/test Jesus if you will. I honestly think that Nicodemus was asking Jesus these questions from a more literal perspective and wants to know if Jesus meant something literal by it or if it was just a spiritual decoding. Once again, Nicodemus was a very smart man, what would he possibly be asking questions like this for? It does not really strike me as something that Nicodemus would be doing, especially if he was known around the city for not just being an average human being.

    • I like when you said Nicodemus was almost sounding like a child when asking about entering our mother’s womb a second time. This question seems shocking to me as Nicodemus is known for being a very wise man, and a man that was a teacher of Israel. I think it is obvious that Nicodemus did not have previous knowledge of being born again, but Jesus was quick to think that he should have been able to figure it out. Another option that you touched on, along with Kostenberger p68 is the oral communication when Nicodemus said “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God”. Could this be Nicodemus setting Jesus up, and is that why Jesus fired back at him questioning his intelligence? In verse 11 it sounds like Jesus may be getting tired of Nicodemus when he says “but still you people do not accept our testimony”. I think this makes it clear that this was not the first time that Nicodemus and the rest of Israel had heard this message from Jesus. So does that mean that Nicodemus had possibly asked these same questions or something similar before? And that is why Jesus does not seem to be as patient with him in his answers?

  8. This was a great post that can really make a person think, “what do I want from Jesus?” do I want Jesus to trap Him, or do I want Jesus to find out what He is really about, and then to except, and love Him. I think when reading this post it made me look back to their times a little bit more, and realize that if you were a Jew, they believed that they were already “saved by being Jew”. and Jesus was the one speaking out against this now that He is here, the Jews need to accept Jesus as the Lord their God. That’s why I like your post towards the bottom when you were talking about the Jews trying to convert everyone else to Judaism, and now that Jesus is on the scene He is saying that everyone has free will and can choose whether or not they want salvation through Jesus alone.

  9. I feel that Nicodemus may have been cautiously curious because of the fact that he came to Jesus after dark. Nicodemus was respectful and he wanted to know the answers to his questions. The fact that Nicodemus did not come to Jesus in front of the crowds could be seen as he was not trying to trap Jesus with his own words, but some of the questions he asked could be seen as a trap created by the Pharisees. The Pharisees did not like Jesus so what made this one come to Jesus? Was Nicodemus trying to get some answers so he could make a conscious and unbiased opinion of what he should believe? Nicodemus came from a family of wealth and we know this because later in John, he wanted to help pay for the burial of Jesus. Nicodemus may have wanted to follow Jesus’ teachings, but he may have also treasured his status in the Jewish society. Maybe Nicodemus saw Jesus turn the tables in the Temple and that made him question whether he was in the right or wrong. Jesus gave Nicodemus some things he needed to ponder because he might have started questioning everything he had been taught.

  10. The main thing I learn when reading into Nicodemus is now confused he was what Jesus told him that he must be born again. I tried to put myself into his shoes and try to comprehend what Jesus would mean when speaking of being born again. In verse 10 it seems as if Jesus is making fun of Nicodemus for being a smart man but not understanding this concept. I wonder if there is a lesson in this that there may be people in our lives that we look up to because of their position, or intelligence, but that does not mean that they have everything right. Nicodemus was known as a prominent figure, as he was the pharisee, and I believe because of his position he was cautious. I wonder that because Nicodemus knew that people are likely to follow what he does and believes, that if he were to publicly meet with Jesus to ask questions, people would know he is showing interest. This is good from our point of view, but if Nicodemus was skeptical then he may have not wanted to risk leading his followers down a wrong path. Kostenberger p68 says “Jesus chides Nicodemus by saying, ‘you are Israel’s teacher”. Jesus was not saying this in a praising way towards Nicodemus, but instead saying that he is the one who teaches them, and if he does not accept what Jesus is telling him, then the people of Israel will not either. I think this brings us back to my original thought of how confused Nicodemus was when Jesus was telling him how he would have to be born again, and this fear and confusion may have been the driving force to why he was so slow and cautious to take what Jesus was saying to heart.

  11. This post was very interesting to read and learn from because I haven’t done any research on Nicodemus and his impact that he had or didn’t have in ministry or in Jesus’ ministry while he was here on earth. One thing that stuck out to me was this part in the article, “An impressive number of scholars describe Nicodemus as a timid follower of Jesus, a secret follow who slowly realizes that Jesus is the true Messiah. But as Andreas Köstenberger points out, John does not use term “believer” to describe Nicodemus, nor is does he give testimony to the true nature of Jesus.” While reading the Bible growing up it always seemed like Nicodemus was one of the pharisees that was out to “Trick” Jesus. But as it comes to show in this article and a little digging of my own it appears that it is true that Nicodemus was a quiet follower of Jesus as he was there at his teaching asking questions to Jesus about his teachings. He wanted to know more and dig in deeper of his knowledge which is something that pharisees don’t often do is learn from someone that isn’t a pharisee or teacher of the law. But Nicodemus was a very tricky guy to understand if he was friendly or if he was looking to actually trap Jesus. This article was a good one to read and learn from as we talk about Nicodemus.

  12. It never occurred to me that Nicodemus was asking Jesus different questions because he was asking for a group of people. Probably because they were too scared by the tension that was happening between Jesus and the religious leaders and the political power-filled people. To add, I like how you pointed out how Nicodemus is responding to Jesus’ authority. They were both men of authority and they were both trained and taught, but one was taught by man and the other was taught by God. I can just see Nicodemus looking at Jesus with amazement while He taught and spoke words of such wisdom.
    In the book Encountering John, Köstenberger says this regarding this topic, “Jesus and Nicodemus are here engaged in what might be called an acute power struggle. Like it or not, the two men found themselves on two opposite ends of the spectrum of formal, didactic authority within Judaism. Regarding Jesus, people asked in amazement, ‘How did this man get such learning without having been taught?’ (7:15). Since Jesus never attached himself as a disciple to a Jewish rabbi, he was considered self-taught and without formal authority…”(Köstenberger, 68).
    This makes me think about how we today, can give people authority if they have been taught through schooling, a mentorship, discipleship or any other formal teaching.
    What if we encourage people to listen for Holy Spirit’s voice instead of needing the voice of man?
    What if true authority comes from being one with the Father?

    “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?
    The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.
    Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work.”
    -John 14:10

  13. The story of Jesus and Nicodemus is one that will always be significant and fascinating to me. First off, I love his interactions with him and Jesus because of what it teaches us. When Nicodemus asks Jesus how we do become born again, Jesus goes on to provide us with profound truth. What I like about the person Nicodemus is that he’s different from all the other Pharisees- he’s genuinely curious about what Jesus has to say. But what I love about God’s hand in this whole story is that He uses this moment, this interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus as a teaching moment, not just for Nicodemus himself, but eventually for all of us, and all of the readers of John. I truly think Nicodemus here is not out to get Jesus, unlike the other Pharisees but is genuinely curious about the truth that Jesus is presenting. When Nicodemus asks in verse four: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”, I believe he is innocently asking Jesus about this being born again phenomenon. I also love how in this passage, the nature of Nicodemus’ conversion is left rather ambiguous. We are not directly told if He was a true believer or not. I believe this is interesting to note because it takes the focus off of Nicodemus and puts the focus on Jesus and this key idea of conversion, this profound concept of being born again.

  14. Knowing of or about someone is very different than truly knowing someone. Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish governing body called the Sanhedrin (ESVSB, p. 2024). As a “ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1), the word about Jesus had spread and had been brought to Nicodemus’ attention. To learn more on behalf of the Sanhedrin and personally, Nicodemus met with Jesus at night to discuss the behaviors and teachings of Christ. I used to assume that Nicodemus appeared to Jesus at night because he did not want to be seen with such a controversial person and potential threat to Judaism. Long (2011) suggests that it may not have been due to controversiality, rather that it was common in the first century for Jewish teachers to meet in the cooler evenings to talk about the Scriptures (para. 4). When the two men met to discuss, Köstenberger (2013) describes the engagement as “an acute power struggle” (p. 68). Both Nicodemus and Jesus were knowledgeable and trained in the scriptures, but as Elle Christian stated in a blog: “one was taught by man and the other was taught by God.” It seemed as though Nicodemus truly wanted to understand Jesus and his purpose, but where Nicodemus failed was understanding who Jesus was and what his purpose on earth accomplished (John 3:16). Nicodemus knew about God, studied the Scriptures and Jewish Law, and attempted to live a righteous life. Because of this, Nicodemus rose to a position of authority over the Jews. Although Nicodemus had accomplished all of this in his life, he lacked the most important possession: personally knowing God. As Jesus stood before him, revealing the truth about being the Messiah, Nicodemus could not recognize the God he claimed to know so much about. Many Christians continue in the same pattern of Nicodemus today. They go to church, learn and debate about God, yet they lack a personal connection and relationship with Him. As a student of a Christian University, I am guilty of this. I spend so much time studying the Bible and learning about God, that I neglect to continue getting to know God on a personal level. The story of Nicodemus is a great reminder that it does not matter how much you know about God. What matters is that you accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

  15. I never really looked into Nicodemus as a biblical Character, beyond what is mentioned about him in the bible, so having a source that deeper describes who he was, or seemed to be is fairly interesting to me. I wasn’t aware of how little there actually is about him contained in the Bible. Knowing that he likely came from a place higher up in the social hierarchy, seems to make sense with the given evidence, and how he may not have completely believed who Jesus was, as he may not have felt as much as a need for Him as he was placed well socially likely avoiding some struggles. When it comes to deciding on Nicodemus’ outlook on how he approached Jesus is also interesting. With out knowing the background of how the rabbis would gather at night, it truly would have seemed that he approaches Jesus at a time where nobody would notice, making how you view the passage slightly different. It also seems important to note that the followers of both people where there when Nicodemus approached Jesus, as it would have affected how they talked to each other and addressed those around them. There is a lot that can be unpacked from this small piece of scripture, especially when looking at it in a correct historical perspective. I also thought that the conclusion of this blog is a great way to wrap it up, as it delivers a sort of change for the reader, and allows us to think if we are a real follower, or more of a Nicodemus

  16. What I think is really interesting about Nicodemus is that he first came to Jesus skeptical and in private which is unlike the other Pharisees, who would normally make a scene in public questioning Jesus. However, I think that this goes to show that Nicodemus is actually curious about Jesus and wants to hear what He has to say, despite being somewhat skeptical of who Jesus is. What I think is great about the story of when Nicodemus comes to see Jesus is that he asks Jesus “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” After this Jesus tells him that you can only be born again through the Holy Spirit. This message is eye-opening because Jesus in this passage is once again giving us the truth on how to have eternal life. I think it’s eye-opening that you stated that “one can be friendly toward the claims of Christ without accepting them.” I think that it’s important to understand that being open to the idea that Jesus is the Son of God and actually accepting Jesus as your savior are two different things. As Jesus stated to Nicodemus, you can only be reborn again through the spirit of God, you can only be saved if you have accepted Him, being friendly and open to the idea of Jesus isn’t going to cut it in terms of salvation.

  17. The point I want to touch on in this blog is when professor Long states, “The example of Nicodemus is a warning to the reader: one can be friendly toward the claims of Christ without accepting them.” I have met way too many people where this statement reigns true. A personal example that always comes to mind is my cousin Alex who just graduated college. Alex grew up in a Catholic household where they went to church pretty regularly, but she only went because her family did. One night driving her home, we got into the topic of salvation. For her, getting to heaven means that if you are a good, kind person then you have the Lord living inside of you and that gets you to heaven. That is when I asked if she had heard of the term “salvation” and she said she has not, so that is when the door was opened to be able to share that with her. Did she accept that as the truth? Not so much, but I got to plant a seed and hopefully the Lord will grow that seed. Unfortunately, she is one of those examples of people who are “friendly towards the claims of Christ” but will not accept it as truth. She believes there is a God, but lacks that personal relationship and faith aspect. Another personal example is my dad. He also believes there is a God, and what’s interesting is that he believes he does have a relationship with him because he prays to him once in a while, but through our various conversations over the past eight years, we have gone over the concept of salvation and he denies it each time, so that’s when I can confidently say that he is not born again yet. But, just like my cousin, he is one of the kindest men you will ever meet, but that does not mean the Lord is in you and guarantees you a spot in heaven.

  18. Nicodemus genuinely wanted to learn who Jesus was. He wanted to learn if he was truly the word. It can be believed that it is really the reason why Nicodemus came at night time. Before I looked into Nicodemus, I thought that he may have been embarrassed because Nicodemus was a little different then Jesus, because Jesus was born into a not so wealthy life style. I was under the impression that Nicodemus may have been embarrassed knowing that about Jesus. After looking into Phillip Longs post, I believe what Phillip Long said in his article that Nicodemus didn’t go at night because he was embarrassed to be seen with Jesus. If Nicodemus really wants to genuinely learn about Jesus and if he is the Messiah than it makes sense to go in the evening when there are no crowds around Jesus. I don’t think Nicodemus wanted to become a believer. God gives us the freedom to believe in him. The gift of us believing in him is eternal life and being able to see heaven. God doesn’t want us to just learn of him he wants us to believe and know him, and I believe that Nicodemus just wanted to learn of Jesus Christ and to see if he is the Messiah.

  19. It was interesting to compare Nicodemus to other characters in the Bible, especially teachers and other Pharisees. As a respected leader, Nicodemus clearly had an important voice to those around him and to his pupils. According to Scripture, Nicodemus went at night to see Jesus before their meeting written in John 3. This is significant for many reasons, but the biggest idea that stood out to me was that Nicodemus wanted to inquire with Jesus privately for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of Jesus Himself. For most people that had a conversation with Him, or heard of Jesus being the Messiah, or even just those that heard of the Messiah in general, they had a clear understanding of what they believed. These people either believed in the Messiah, or did not. According to the blog post, Long states clearly that, “Nicodemus is therefore an example of an interested observer, a friendly but ultimately unconvinced witness to Jesus. But he never confesses faith in Jesus”. Nicodemus never declared his faith in Jesus. According to John, the purpose of his gospel was for those that witness Jesus’ ministry, His miracles, or His presence to believe in Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:30-31, ESV). One of the most important people in John’s gospel was never able to determine that he believed in the Messiah, or followed Him. This in and of itself is significant and is very applicable to individuals in modern society. Even though Christians may witness to someone until the day they die, there will still be someone who does not believe, but we must remember to not take that personally. Even the most devout teacher and learner, Nicodemus, went to be alone with Jesus and was still unable to have faith in His existence and glory.

  20. Nicodemus is a person that I have heard about growing up, but never really knew the story. This past year, I have been learning a lot more about him and have looked at his encounter with Jesus. This blog addressed some of the things that I have been wondering about as I have been looking into the story of Nicodemus. Firstly, I find it interesting that Nicodemus was present at Jesus’ burial, as we see in John 19:39. If it is true that he did not become a believer, even after meeting with and talking to Jesus, then why would he be at His burial? Like the blog says, I think that it may have just been because he was a Jewish rabbi, but even if that is the explanation, I wonder why it was him that came. I wonder if Nicodemus did become a believer by that point and John just did not mention it. That is something that I think is interesting to think about. Secondly, I also wondered why it was that Nicodemus would come to meet Jesus at night rather than during the day. I like the possible explanation from the blog that Nicodemus was making it less confrontational. When I read this, I do not read it like Nicodemus is trying to trap Jesus, but I read it with Nicodemus having more of a friendly tone, so coming to Jesus at night in order to make things less confrontational makes a lot of sense to me.

  21. Nicodemus knew Jesus and was interested in learning more about who he was, however, he never fully comprehended that Jesus is the Messiah. Although he tried to understand what Jesus was saying, Kostenberger (2013) states that “[Nicodemus] misunderstood Jesus’s true message, which pointed to the rabbi’s need to be born ‘from above,’ that is, born spiritually” (p. 118). As Long mentions, this can serve as a warning to people being friendly towards the ideas of Christianity, yet not completely accepting Christ and truly believing who he is. This reminds me of Matthew 7:21, which states, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,” (NIV). People will claim to have done works in His name; however, God will claim that he never knew them. Like Nicodemus, some people know about Jesus, but do not know Jesus in the sense of having a personal relationship with him being their Messiah. It should be eye-opening that some people can live their lives going through the motions of Christianity without ever submitting their lives to Christ and truly confessing their faith in him. It is easy to attend church and enjoy being a part of that community with family and friends, or even be interested in reading and preaching the Bible, without being fully invested in our faith. As Jesus mentions to Nicodemus, in order to be saved we have to be born again, spiritually. This means that we must completely commit ourselves to following him and turn away from our sinful desires. Jesus wants people to be all in and devote themselves to having a personal relationship with him, not just to know that he exists.

  22. We know of Nicodemus from John 3. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin which was the Jewish ruling council. One question that has been looked into about John 3 is whether or not Nicodemus’ tone in 3:2 was condescending. One thing to keep in mind are the Jewish societal differences between Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus was never a disciple under a Jewish rabbi and as a result He was considered to be self-taught and without formal authority. However, Nicodemus was a part of the Sanhedrin. There was always a power struggle between the Jewish ruling council and Jesus (Köstenberger, 68-69). I don’t think that Nicodemus was trying to be condescending. Even thought Nicodemus was considered to be higher up by the Jewish community of the time, he still addresses Jesus as Rabbi. This address was considered to be a sign of respect (ESVSB, 2024). Another question up for discussion is whether or not Nicodemus was saved that night. In John 3:3 Jesus explains that in order to see the kingdom of God that you need to be born again. Just like every other believing Jew Nicodemus wanted to see the kingdom of God and most likely expected to see it. Nicodemus does not seem to understand what Jesus means by being born again. However, in 3:10 Nicodemus asks Jesus “How can these things be?” and Jesus responds by saying, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” Based on this remark Jesus seems to have expected Nicodemus to understand these concepts (Kostenberger, 69). “Nicodemus is therefore an example of an interested observer, a friendly but ultimately unconvinced witness to Jesus” (Long).

  23. This post is interesting and made me think who Nicodemus was? Prior to reading this I really didn’t know too much about Nicodemus. As it is mentioned, he is described as a teacher and a leader of the people, and a member of the Sanhedrin. (Long) it is interesting to see how Nicodemus and Jesus interacted. Nicodemus came to Jesus and he was a little older. To me it seems that he isn’t too fond of Jesus. But it is difficult to know if Nicodemus knew who Jesus was. The diolong between both of them is also interesting to see. I don’t think it is his intention to trap Jesus. Throughout conversations there are misunderstandings that come that hinder the conversation. I think he’s trying to understand Jesus and his motifs. I think Nicodemus truly wanted to know and learn more about Jesus.

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