From Heaven With Love


Chapter 17—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 learned, he had been strangely attracted by the humble Nazarene. The lessons that had fallen from the Saviour's lips had greatly impressed him, and he desired to learn more. HLv 105.1

Christ's exercise of authority in cleansing the temple had roused the hatred of the priests and rulers. Such boldness on the part of an obscure Galilean was not to be tolerated. But not all were agreed on putting an end to His work. Some feared to oppose One so evidently moved by the Spirit of God. They knew that the bondage of the Jews to a heathen nation was the result of their stubbornness in rejecting reproofs from God. They feared that in plotting against Jesus the priests and rulers were following in the steps of their fathers and would bring fresh calamities on the nation. Nicodemus shared these feelings. In the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus advised caution and moderation. He urged that if Jesus was really invested with authority from God, it would be perilous to reject His warnings. The priests dared not disregard this counsel. HLv 105.2

Nicodemus had anxiously studied the prophecies relating to the Messiah. The more he searched, the stronger was his conviction that this was the One who was to come. He had been distressed by the profanation of the temple. He was a witness when Jesus drove out the buyers and the sellers; he saw the Saviour healing the sick; he saw their looks of joy, and heard their words of praise. He could not doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was the Sent of God. HLv 105.3

He greatly desired an interview with Jesus, but shrank from seeking Him openly. Should his visit come to the knowledge of the Sanhedrin, it would draw upon him scorn and denunciation. He resolved upon a secret interview. Learning by special inquiry the Saviour's place of retirement in the Mount of Olives, he waited until the city was hushed in slumber, and then sought Him. HLv 106.1

In the presence of Christ, Nicodemus felt a strange timidity, which he endeavored to conceal. “Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” His words were designed to express and to invite confidence; but they really expressed unbelief. He did not acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah, only a teacher sent from God. HLv 106.2

Jesus bent His eyes on the speaker, as if reading his very soul. He saw before Him a seeker after truth. With a desire to deepen the conviction already resting upon His listener's mind, He came directly to the point, saying kindly, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3, margin. HLv 106.3

Nicodemus had come to enter into a discussion, but Jesus laid bare 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, it will result in no saving good to discuss with Me My authority or My mission. HLv 106.4

Nicodemus had heard the preaching of John the Baptist concerning repentance. Yet the heart-searching message of the Baptist had failed to work in him conviction of sin. He was a strict Pharisee, and prided himself on his good works. He was widely esteemed for his benevolence and felt secure of the favor of God. He was startled at the thought of a kingdom too pure for him to see in his present state. HLv 106.5

The figure of the new birth was not wholly unfamiliar to Nicodemus. Converts from heathenism were often compared to children just born. Therefore he must have perceived that the words of Christ were not literal. But as an Israelite he felt that he needed no change. Hence his surprise and irritation at the Saviour's words. The pride of the Pharisee was struggling against the honest desire of the seeker after truth. HLv 107.1

Surprised out of his self-possession, 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 man responds to spiritual things; spiritual things are spiritually discerned. HLv 107.2

Raising His hand with quiet dignity, the Saviour pressed the truth home with greater assurance, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus knew that Christ here referred to the 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. HLv 107.3