Nicodemus – Bestower of a Regal and Royal Burial for Jesus

Published by Jacob P Varghese on

Nicodemus was an honored member of the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling body of the Jews or Jewish supreme council (Jn 7: 50–51). He was a strict Pharisee, (strict disciplinarians, who spend their lives observing scribal laws). He held a high position of trust and a leader of the Jews (Jn. 3: 1). Nicodemus was rich and wealthy as he owned the expensive mixture of Myrrh & Aloe, (Jn. 19: 39). He was known for his benevolence, and especially for his liberal offerings to the temple to carry out its sacred services and was famous throughout Jerusalem for his wealth, highly educated and possessed talents of no ordinary character religious figure and philosopher from Judea.

All that we know of Nicodemus in the Bible is from the Gospel according to John, as he is not part of the tradition of the Synoptic Gospels. The name Nicodemus, (Nikodemos – Niko-victory; demos-people), thus his name means victory of the people. Nicodemus, had seen the miracles Jesus performed, but may not have been fully convinced of Jesus’ divinity. He had been strangely attracted by the teachings of Jesus and the lessons from the Saviour’s lips had greatly impressed him, and he desired to learn more of these wonderful truths. Nicodemus changed his mindset after his encounter with Christ, and he followed through with it, by his actions. He came honestly seeking after God, but by the time of Jesus’s crucifixion Nicodemus had grown bold enough to publicly reveal what he now believed.

 

Nicodemus appears three times in the three chapters of the Bible in the Gospel of John. Nicodemus meets Jesus secretly (Jn. 3: 1-21); Nicodemus questions the Pharisee’s actions against Jesus, (Jn. 7: 43-53) speaking up in Jesus’ defense and Nicodemus helps take Jesus down from the cross and anoints His Body with spices (Jn 19: 38-42). Each time, Nicodemos acts gradually fearless and steadily speaks bolder

Nicodemus was impressed by the teaching of Christ and was confident that Jesus is a man of God, otherwise, all these would have been impossible. He greatly desired for an interview and longed to have an interaction with Jesus, but he avoided from meeting Him openly. As it would be too humiliating for a ruler of the Jews to acknowledge himself in sympathy with a teacher as yet so little known, as well he feared that his visit come to the knowledge of the Sanhedrin, or ashamed that it would draw upon him their scorn and denunciation. Moreover, the Pharisees violently opposed Jesus and wanted to arrest him. So, He, to avoid this, he resolved upon a secret interview. Learning by special inquiry the Saviour’s place of retirement in the Mount of Olives, he waited until the city was hushed in slumber, and then sought Him. John reports that Nicodemus came to speak with Jesus at night, thus he meets Jesus in Secret or a leisure time of Jesus. He had an inclination to know the truth and wanted to avoid the crowds, so as to have a one in one, as well as a long conversation.

In the conversation between Jesus Christ and Nicodemos, he asks Jesus a series of questions. Jesus answers them. But the answers were not easy to understand and were misunderstood by Nicodemos. Jesus tells ” I tell you the truth. No one can see the kingdom of God. unless he was born anew. Vs. 3; (Gk. Anew: both again and born from above). Birth is a new life, do it means you must live a new life, have a new nature, begin new foundations, new affections, new aims etc. Our souls have to be fashioned and enlivened anew to be born a divine and heavenly life. Without being born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God. Without being born from above or without being Holy we cannot be happy or enjoy the peace of the kingdom. So, this spiritual rebirth is a requirement for entering the kingdom of God.

Jesus was speaking of heavenly things, as He was God, who came from Heaven. But Nicodemos, who was earthly spiritual scholar, misunderstood and gets frustrated and asks, “how can one be born again a second time?  Can one enter his mothers womb again?” To this Jesus replies “you cannot enter the kingdom of God. Unless you are born of water and spirit”Vs. 5. Jesus was talking about spiritual birth and Nicodemos was thinking about physical birth.

There is a distinction between physical birth and spiritual birth. Physical birth is from our parents into the physical world. Spiritually we are dead, because of the sinful nature we inherited from Adam. So, a spiritual birth is necessary to remove the contamination from sin.  Jesus was referring to Ez. 36: 25-26. {Cleaning and new spirit]. Water is a symbol of cleansing and purifying, by taking away filth and refreshing a weary traveler. Spirit is the symbol of power, to sanctify a soul. When Jesus takes possession of our lives, our sins are forgiven and forgotten (washing away) and we enter into a new life of power in Christ. The spirit strengthens us, wiping away the past. Thus, Jesus had an eye on the ordinance of to the Sacrament of Baptism.

Vs. 8: Comparison of spirit / wind Heb. Word for spirit is ‘Ruach’ – which means ‘spirit’, ‘wind’ and ‘breath’. You cannot see the wind, you do know where the wind comes from and where it goes, but you can see the effect of wind, you can hear the sound of wind, you can feel the wind. {wind can be a quiet breeze, a gentle wind, a gale or a cyclone – effect flattened grasses, uprooted trees, etc.} Similarly, there is no ‘litmus test’ to prove that a Christian has the Holy Spirit, but you can see the effect of spirit in human lives. – behaviour, talks, deeds, looks all controlled by the Holy Spirit

In John 7, some Pharisees and priests sent some of the temple guard to arrest Jesus, but they return, unable to bring themselves to do it (Jn 7: 32–47). Nicodemus presents the opinion that Jesus should not be dismissed or condemned until they have heard from Him personally: “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (Jn 7: 51). However, the rest of the Council rudely dismisses Nicodemus’s suggestion out of hand.

The final mention of Nicodemus in the Bible is in John 19 after Jesus’ crucifixion. We find Nicodemus assisting Joseph of Arimathea in Jesus’ burial. Joseph, also described in John as a rich man and in Mk. 15:43 as a member of the Council, and as a disciple of Jesus, albeit a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews (Jn. 19: 38). Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of spices for use in preparing the body for burial and then assisted Joseph in wrapping the body and placing it in the tomb. The sheer amount, of burial spices would seem to indicate that Nicodemus was a rich man and that he had great respect and love for Jesus. He gave Jesus a Kingly burial. Both these secret disciples’, deeds are an indication of their love for Jesus and probably wanted to be counted as His disciples.

Nothing is known of St. Nicodemus after the Resurrection. He may have been excommunicated from the Sanhedrin and even had to shed off his role as a Pharisee. Church tradition states that he was possibly martyred sometime during the 1st Century AD.


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