Hunger takes on many forms. It’s a stomach growl yelling “feed me!” I’ve experienced that hunger in both real and imaginary ways. Head hunger is a very real thing, by the way, but that’s not what this hunger is about. This kind of hunger is felt deep inside, a gnawing in the soul for more, for answers. It’s a spiritual hunger that has only one solution, one thing that will satisfy.
Once upon a time…
…there lived a Jewish man, a leader, a member of the Sanhedrin, the high court in Israel, and a Pharisee. This Pharisee had that soul-stirring kind of hunger. Hunger that defied all he’d been taught, and taught others in return. Hunger that demanded to be satisfied; he needed answers.
The quest drove him to go beyond what the crowd was saying, beyond his fears of being found in the company of this Nazarene, to find out for himself the answer to the question — who is this man?
That took guts in my book…and because he had the guts to push through a little fear and trembling to ask, this Pharisee was the recipient of the best sermon in the history of the world.
Who was this Pharisee? N I C O D E M U S.
Let’s jump in reading from John 3 …
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
It always surprises me the way Jesus answers questions with statements that at first hearing don’t answer or connect to the question. He challenged man-made thinking and tradition at every encounter. Pharisees always tried his patience and he could see right through their arguments. I think he liked to rock their worlds myself.
In this case, and with THIS PHARISEE, Jesus knew this kind of hunger, a heart cry that said “WHO ARE YOU, REALLY? I want to know more…”
… and so He kept going…
“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.”
How can this be? Hmmm…seems I’ve heard a similar question before… Like from Mary in Luke 1:34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel…?”
Both questions came from a true heart, wondering about a completely unnatural occurrence…a virgin having a baby and a man entering a mother’s womb again?
Both encountered a spiritual wall, of sorts, to believe a reality not of this world. This wall was not made of brick or stone, however, its substance was like the “wind that blows…” To step through this wall only takes a turn of the head…a change in direction to believe the impossible as possible.
Jesus knew when to push truth as an answer.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.
I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”
Okay…are you ready? This is WHO I AM Nicodemus. Will you believe in Me?
“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who BELIEVES may have eternal life in him.”
Nicodemus, the teacher that he was, would know that story of Moses and the snake… By using an example, a prophetic example, Jesus was saying… It’s about me Nicodemus…I’m the one you’re hungry for…believe in ME!
And because of HIS GREAT LOVE…the best sermon in history was given to this one hungry Pharisee…
“For God SO LOVED THE WORLD that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life…”
I AM that one Nicodemus… Will you believe in Me?
Confronted by Love
Let me stop a minute and paint this picture…as I imagine it to have been.
Nicodemus come to see Jesus at night (secretly), so they are in a room, dimly lit. At a table, probably laid with figs and bread, an oil lamp is burning sending flickering shadows everywhere. Every eye glued and every ear attuned to each word spoken between these two sitting face to face across the table.
Can you just imagine as Jesus is speaking, Nicodemus is on the edge of his seat, listening as if his life depended on every word and with each one, his future was being rewritten…forever changed.
He was being confronted by the Love of the Father and the light of the Son. “For God so loved…”
Jesus stands, walks around the table…looking directly into those hungry eyes, desperate for answers, yet still hesitant to believe.
“…For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, BUT TO SAVE the world through him. Whoever BELIEVES in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
So this is My challenge to you Nicodemus…
Will you believe?
I’m sure he left that night in a fog of wonder, his world forever changed. No longer is he condemned. “For God so LOVED.” He was loved.
A Changed Man
Was Nicodemus a changed man?
See what you think.
The last time we see this Pharisee, he is the company of another disciple of Jesus, another “secret” believer, Joseph of Arimathea…
“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.”
Out of the shadows of fear they came, these two brave transformed souls, risking their lives to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus. As if they were divinely appointed by God to care for is Only Son, they did what the other disciples couldn’t do. Their love poured out not only in bravery, but at great personal cost*.
So the final verdict? Yes He believed alright, and that belief led a Pharisee to become “born AGAIN!”
“For God so Loved the Word…”
*I did a little digging and 75 lbs of myrrh and aloes today would cost around $150,000-$200,000, and that doesn’t include the cost of the tomb!