Anglican Morning Devotion for 24 November 2021 Anno domini
A ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, 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. 3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5Jesus answered, 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. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
The annals of history are filled with heroic actions of otherwise very common men being compelled to higher purpose by faith in God. Two such men are the subject of this devotion today – Peter, a fisherman; and Nicodemus, a Pharisee. Though the social status of these two may contrast greatly, yet, they both came to faith from a state of ignorance into the fulness of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us consider the Pharisee, Nicodemus, first. Nicodemus was a renowned religious leader in Jerusalem and a member of the religious elite of the Sanhedrin. He had much to lose in warming up to Jesus Christ, especially in a public way. He had heard and witnessed the teachings and miracles of the Lord, and he had also observed the Lord’s courageous cleansing of the Temple. Nicodemus was no fool. He would not risk all on a whim, but there was something about Jesus that gnawed at the imagination of Nicodemus – he must know more. So, Nicodemus comes at night to inquire further of Jesus. He came in darkness in order to avoid the prying eyes of his fellow Jewish friends. He came in darkness as do all who come to Christ – out of darkness into the Light of His Love. Am I presuming too much in my claim of the motive of Nicodemus in coming at night? I think not. I believe the Scriptures themselves give abundant evidence of the fact.
First of all, John introduces Nicodemus by clearly stating he came at night. Every time John mentions Nicodemus in his Gospel, he describes him as the one who came by night, so that must have been a significant point for John. In each appearance, Nicodemus gains courage based on increasing faith.
In John 7 Nicodemus is found defending Jesus from the attempts of the Pharisees to have him crucified: “Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? (John 7:50-51) He was then accused of being a Galilean for defending Jesus by the other Pharisees.
At last, we see Nicodemus, no longer careful of being accused of being a disciple of Jesus, going publicly with Joseph of Arimathaea to claim the body of our Lord. “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:38-40) Nicodemus came first in doubt, and finally in full faith.
Our next example is that of Peter, a stone off the Rock which is Christ. He never failed of courage while the Lord was by his side. He even struck off the ear of one of the guards of the High Priest who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden at Gethsemane. He was a fisherman of strength and courage. He never failed of courage while the Lord was by his side. But when separated from the Lord, Peter’s courage failed him shamefully. Peter was fearful of his fate if he was found to be a disciple of Jesus. On the three occasions that he was so charged, Peter denied the Lord three times. On the last denial, the Lord Jesus turned at looked Peter straight in the eye. “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:61-62) Peter wept for three days until the Angel of the Lord told the women to go and tell the disciples of His rising from the grave, and the Angel then stipulated only one by name – PETER! This was intended to ameliorate the fevered hurt and shame of Peter.
How about you, friend. Do you have the courage of your own convictions to stand up in the face of trial?