Nicodemus the Failure

By Rev. Eric Brown

Nicodemus is a failure. Spiritually, at least. In the world, he was quite successful. He was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. He was well respected in society and thought to be wise. He was even a teacher – knew the Scriptures forwards and back. And yet, Nicodemus just messes so many things up in John 3.

First, he comes to Jesus by night. Nicodemus is a man of power and influence, and he knows that many of the Pharisees are giving Jesus a hard time. Does he stand up for Jesus, does he argue that he should be listened to fairly? Nope. He comes by night, when no one can see him there. That's not exactly boldness. Then, in their conversation, Nicodemus doesn't understand a thing Jesus says. He constantly gets the wrong answer, to the point that Jesus asks, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” Nicodemus is embarrassed and doesn't really know what is going on.

Yet what does Christ do? He doesn't mock Nicodemus. Jesus doesn't kick Nicodemus out or refuse to talk to him anymore. Instead, Jesus is patient and kind and just keeps spelling things out more and more – even to the point where we get John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Jesus just keeps on explaining, making things clearer and clearer. It's not about Nicodemus and his failures – it's about God loving the world through His Son, Christ Jesus.

You don't need to impress Jesus with your knowledge. You don't need to hold up your successes before Him, and when you see your failures, you don't need to shrink away. Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever – and just as He showed Nicodemus patience and love and proclaimed the Gospel to him, so to, even today your Lord is patient with you, and will continue to give you His Word and Spirit so that you know that He loves and forgives you.

Rev. Eric Brown is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Herscher, Illinois and the co-host of the HT Gospeled Boldly Podcast.

Created: June 6th, 2017