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Humble Hero

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    Nicodemus Comes to Jesus at Night

    This chapter is based on John 3:1-17.

    Nicodemus, a highly educated and honored member of the national council, had been stirred by the teaching of Jesus. Though rich and well-read, he had been strangely attracted by the humble Nazarene. The lessons from the Savior’s lips had greatly impressed him, and he wanted to learn more.HH 70.1

    Christ’s use of His authority in cleansing the temple had ignited the hatred of the priests and rulers. They felt they should not tolerate such boldness from an obscure Galilean. But not all agreed about putting an end to His work. Some feared to oppose One whom the Spirit of God so evidently moved. They knew that the Jews were subjects of a heathen nation because they had stubbornly rejected God’s reproofs. They feared that in plotting against Jesus the priests and rulers were following in the steps of their ancestors and would bring fresh disasters on the nation. Nicodemus shared these feelings. In the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus advised caution and moderation. He urged that if Jesus really carried authority from God, it would be dangerous to reject His warnings. The priests did not dare to ignore this counsel.HH 70.2

    Nicodemus had anxiously studied the prophecies relating to the Messiah. The more he searched, the stronger was his conviction that Jesus was the One who was to come. He had been distressed by how the priests had profaned the temple. He witnessed Jesus driving out the buyers and the sellers. He saw the Savior healing the sick, and he saw their looks of joy and heard their words of praise. He could not doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was the One sent from God.HH 70.3

    He greatly wanted to talk with Jesus, but he was unwilling to go to Him openly. If the Sanhedrin heard about this visit, they would scorn and denounce him. He decided to try for a secret meeting. By special inquiry, he learned where the Savior went for the night on the Mount of Olives. He waited until the city was hushed in sleep, and then he went looking for Jesus.HH 70.4

    In Christ’s presence, Nicodemus felt strangely timid, and he tried to conceal this. “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” He chose his words to express and to invite confidence, but they really expressed unbelief. He did not acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah, but only a teacher sent from God.HH 70.5

    Jesus gazed at the speaker, as if reading his very soul. He saw before Him someone who was seeking after truth. Wanting to deepen the conviction already in His listener’s mind, He came directly to the point, saying kindly, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” John 3:3, NRSV.HH 71.1

    Nicodemus had come to enter into a discussion, but Jesus laid open the foundation principles of truth. He said, “You don’t need to have your curiosity satisfied, but to have a new heart. You must receive a new life from above before you can appreciate heavenly things. Until this change takes place, discussing My authority or My mission with Me will result in no saving good.”HH 71.2

    Nicodemus had heard John the Baptist’s preaching about repentance. Yet the heart-searching message of the Baptist had not brought him to conviction of sin. He was a strict Pharisee and prided himself on his good works. People thought highly of him for his acts of kindness, and he felt sure of God’s favor. He was startled at the thought of a kingdom too pure for him to see in his present state.HH 71.3

    The figure of the new birth was not completely new to Nicodemus. Converts from heathenism were often compared to children just born. So he must have understood that Christ’s words were not literal. But as an Israelite, he felt that he needed no change. This is why he was surprised and irritated by the Savior’s words. The pride of the Pharisee was struggling against the honest desire of the seeker after truth.HH 71.4

    Surprised out of his self-composure, he answered in words full of irony, “How can a man be born when he is old?” Like many others, he revealed that nothing in the natural heart responds to spiritual things. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.HH 71.5

    Raising His hand with quiet dignity, the Savior applied the truth even more closely and with greater assurance: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus knew that Christ was referring to water baptism and the renewing of the heart by the Spirit of God. He was convinced that he was in the presence of the One whom John the Baptist had foretold.HH 71.6

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