The Pharisees wanted Jesus dead! Temple guards were sent to arrest Him but returned to the priests and Pharisees empty-handed: “We have never heard anyone talk like this!” The Pharisees mocked their soft hearts as weakness: “Have you been led astray too?” (Jn.7:47NLT), lumping them with the ‘ignorant crowds’– a cursed lot.
What had the guards heard Jesus saying? “If you are thirsty, come to me!” Believe on me and you will have life to overflowing… The Pharisees were not thirsty. They were satiated with their own goodness, busy striving to perfect their systems of law-keeping. Jesus’ words regularly goaded them, perplexed them, confronted them with their blindness and, were met with hardened hearts.
Except Nicodemus. Thanks to John we have his story by way of three little peeks into his life. In John 3 he had come by night to the LIGHT of the world, seeking to understand the truth about Jesus. Then in John 7 as the Pharisees boasted that none of their number had believed, Nicodemus spoke up defending Jesus’ right to a hearing…
Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing? Jn.7:51NLT
How our world needs to be challenged with this question— Have you heard Him?!
We live in times of great confusion as the rules for right and wrong that have shaped the laws of Western lands for generations are being re-written in light of what pleases this generation, with no regard for what pleases the unchanging God.
The Pharisees too had become a law unto themselves. But some came…
Nicodemus came with questions and Jesus pointed him away from confusion to life. Granted, Jesus did not make it easy for him, did not affirm him as wise or worthy. But He pointed the way to life, persuading Nicodemus that this was not something he could accomplish on his own: “unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God.” (Jn.3:3NLT) This would have to be a work of the Spirit, as inexplicable as the wind, in response to belief on the Son.
But what a hope He held out–
“everyone who believes in me will have eternal life… God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” (John 3:15,17NLT)
This was a great mercy to Nicodemus, as it is to our generation, as it is to me personally.
I self-identify as a Pharisee by nature and upbringing. I grew up in church, not just any church but one that felt itself to be a cut above the rest. We thought we had a special ‘in’ with God. And we had rules for keeping it that way. My ‘pleaser’ personality soaked this right up into the fibers of my personal faith, fomenting a pride that I’ve been a lifetime recanting. My new nature in Christ vies with the old to have dominion. Yes, Jesus died my soul to save, but the old judgmental habits and hardness of heart die hard, making fertile ground for the enemy’s accusations and poor soil for faith to grow.
So I’ve been encouraged this week in revisiting Nicodemus’ story…It was not easy for him to move from the fortress of Phariseeism to consider Jesus’ claims. He came undercover of night. But the Spirit was at work…
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me…And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jn. 6:37-40 NKJV
Jesus welcomed Nicodemus and made the truth clear:
There is no judgement awaiting those who trust Him. (Jn.3:18NLT)
This is my fortress against the enemy’s taunts. Though I see the old phariseeical tendencies of my heart on a daily basis, I am assured of forgiveness and love and relationship with this Jesus. My salvation in its incipience and its completion is of faith, by grace, through the Spirit who woos me to come to the Light. Jesus loves Pharisees who come to him by day or night. He saves sinners who are willing to have their sins exposed and to trust Him with the results. It is only those who stay away ‘for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished’ (Jn.3:20NLT) who miss out on the grace He extends.
I smiled this week to see one more mention of Nicodemus at the end of John’s gospel (Jn.19:39ff). Here he comes following the Crucifixion toting seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes to join Joseph of Arimathea in wrapping up Jesus’ body for burial. Could even a Pharisee come to love this Jesus? Methinks so. With God anything is possible.
Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden.
Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart…
So what keeps us away? Let’s take Nicodemus’ cue and come to the Light. When confusion clouds our minds, when doubts strike, when sin has already overcome us and we shrink back ashamed, when self-sufficiency surges pridefully…let’s come confidently to the Light of the World. This is where we will find LIFE. And as we walk in that light–confessing our sins and trusting His goodness, we will know the abundance of life for which we are intended. He is the vine, we are but dry kindling without Him.
May “Jesus, I Come” be our testimony as it was for this hymn writer over a hundred years ago:
Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness into Thy health, Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself, Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of unrest and arrogant pride, Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy blessed will to abide, Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my self to dwell in Thy love, Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove, Jesus, I come to Thee…
–William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904
Thanks for sharing this meditation with me. I commend to you the following passages that bolster confidence in the One who meets us where we’re at and offers life.
But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is fatihful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. I Jn.1:7-9 NLT
The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. They hate the light becuase they want to sin in the darkness. They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished. Jn.3: 19,20 NLT
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb 11:6 NKJV
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Heb.10:23 ESV
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb. 4:14-16 ESV
You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which graciously forgives instead of crying out for vengeance as the blood of Abel did. Heb.12:24 NLT
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony [confessing that they belong to Jesus] and they did not love their lives to the death. Rev 12:11 NKJV
I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine. Sng 6:3 NKJV
Come to Jesus sung by Chris Rice