Devotional: March 16, 2021
47-49 The Pharisees said, “Are you carried away like the rest of the rabble? You don’t see any of the leaders believing in him, do you? Or any from the Pharisees? It’s only this crowd, ignorant of God’s Law, that is taken in by him—and damned.”
50-51 Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus earlier and was both a ruler and a Pharisee, spoke up. “Does our Law decide about a man’s guilt without first listening to him and finding out what he is doing?”
52-53 But they cut him off. “Are you also campaigning for the Galilean? Examine the evidence. See if any prophet ever comes from Galilee.”
John 7: 47-53 The Message
The main story of Nicodemus is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 3. There, Nick comes to Jesus at night, captivated by the works of God he has seen from our Lord. Jesus talks to Nicodemus about the importance of being born “from above”, or born spiritually.
At the end of that episode in chapter 3, we are uncertain about how Nicodemus responded to Jesus. Did he put his faith in Jesus, or not? The story closes on an open-ended note. This may be very intentional, as John may have purposely left the ending vague, to invite his readers to put themselves into Nicodemus’ shoes.
Would you have been willing to sneak out at night to see Jesus?
Would you have been willing to risk your important position, perhaps arousing suspicion and even hostility from your friends in order to do so?
Would you have been willing to take the time and effort and trouble to see Jesus?
We don’t have absolutely definitive knowledge of Nicodemus’ response to Jesus. However, this small statement made by Nicodemus in chapter 7 may give us a pretty good clue. It reveals how Nicodemus ended up responding to Jesus, after his nighttime visit with Him.
In this passage, Nicodemus speaks up for Jesus. As a Pharisee and a leader, he asks a pointed question, “What does the law say? Should we condemn a man without listening to him? Or should we give him a chance to explain himself?”
The Pharisees continued to be threatened by the popularity of Jesus. They have even settled upon a strategy to rid themselves of Him. All they are looking for is the right opportunity to get the Romans to arrest Jesus.
Proud and arrogant, the Pharisees seek to reassure one another by denigrating Jesus’ followers. They believe such people are “rabble” who get “carried away”. They view every follower of Jesus as “ignorant”: poor souls who are “taken in” by the deceiver and charlatan Jesus.
As a Pharisee himself, Nicodemus knows that the Pharisees revere the law. They are, after all, teachers of the law! Nicodemus is reminding them here that by law, Jesus ought to be allowed to answer for his actions. In essence, Nicodemus is urging the Pharisees to tap the brakes on their rush to judgment of Jesus. While not entirely successful in the end, Nicodemus' courageous act did make them stop and think about what they were doing.
I see these few verses in John Chapter 7 as “the rest of the story” about Nicodemus. Many of us remember Paul Harvey and his radio show. Here, we pick up the story of Nicodemus after some time has passed. It is “the rest of the story” for Nicodemus.
The whole story of Nicodemus’ life is a good reminder to all of us. God is always working in people’s lives. All of our life stories involve not just individual moments and scenes, but whole chapters. In truth, God never wants us to write Him out of our life. On the contrary, He is constantly trying to write Himself into our stories, into every corner of our lives. God is a faithful editor, and wants to help us make changes in our life that help us walk with Him. That is very good news! When we are tempted to judge someone, we need to remember that God is not yet finished writing their story, or our own…
Lord of all,
You are the God of everything that has been, all that we see, and everything that is to come. Thank You for offering me vast opportunities to be with You. Help me to seek You, deepening my relationship with You. Help me to show others the depth of Your love: how You want to be with them. Guide me as I minister to others about You. I pray this prayer in the name of the one who is a friend to all sinners, Jesus Christ.