Nicodemus had spent a lifetime studying God, learning everything he could about God. Then he heard about a man named Jesus. After hearing some of the things Jesus said about God Nicodemus felt all of his accumulated knowledge challenged. A peasant from a rustic backwater, Jesus had the audacity to speak as one with authority, greater authority than even Nicodemus’s own as a member of the Sanhedrin. Jesus had the audacity to speak as one who had an intimate acquaintance with the Most High God.
Wanting to know more, Nic strolled around late one evening to have a conversation with Jesus. When he came upon Jesus sitting in the cool of the evening, Nic approached him with respect. “Rabbi,” he said as a student would to a teacher, “we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus looked up on hearing Nicodemus’ words of certainty, “we know.”
Jesus was always good at taking a man’s words and turning them upside down and inside out until he had to think and think and think again about what had been asked and what had been answered. “But I’m here to tell you that no one can know the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
“Born again?” Nicodemus asked. “How on earth is that supposed to happen?”
Feeling the breeze on his face, seeing it reignite the dying embers of the fire, Jesus tried to ignite Nicodemus’ imagination saying: “Think of the wind Nick. You can’t command it to blow. It just does. And when it does, you can’t grab hold of it, you can just feel it, experience it. Being born again is like that. You can’t command it or control it. You just have to relax and let God do his work in you.”
Nicodemus walked away from that conversation — and seemingly away from Jesus. But later, when the religious leaders sent the temple police to arrest Jesus, they came back with the challenge, “Have you really listened to this man?” When the priests accused the police of being deceived, Nicodemus suggests: “Shouldn’t we give him a fair hearing?” To which the priests accuse Nicodemus of being in cahoots with Jesus. They were certain of their own accumulated knowledge.
We hear nothing else from Nicodemus.
Then! Then, we see Nicodemus with his friend Joseph publicly remove Jesus from the cross and lovingly tend Jesus’ broken body. It was Nicodemus who spent a fortune on spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. That’s all we know about Nicodemus, but this final act seems to be the act of a friend.
I’m convinced that Nicodemus moved from a position of feeling like his lifetime of study had left him with a complete understanding of God until he encountered Jesus. From a position of initial reluctance Nicodemus appears to have gone from knowing ABOUT God to really seeing Jesus and knowing God. “If you really knew me, you would know the Father.”