Anglican Morning Devotion for 15 January 2022 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. 9Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:1-13; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
Nicodemus is an intriguing man in John’s Gospel. He was a man of high standing among the Jewish rulers and the Sanhedrin. He was learned and a seeker always of greater truth. He was also a cautious man due to the attention his every move would attract from the religious ‘elite.’
In the Gospel of St. John, Nicodemus is mentioned three times, and in each case, we are reminded that he came “at night.” This is significant since the Apostle John wishes to remind us of the increasing courage of Nicodemus concurrent with his increasing faith.
Why did Nicodemus come at night? I believe it is obvious that Nicodemus had witnessed the events in the Temple of the Divine power of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was perplexed by the power and bearing of Jesus. The words and acts of the Lord, to Nicodemus, flew in the face of all that he had learned over the years of study under ‘sophisticated’ teachers. He felt some sort of drawing (truly, a gradual quickening) to Christ in his heart that he could not define, and this growing warmth Nicodemus must resolve – but not in broad open daylight! He would go under cover of darkness to conceal his visit from the prying eyes of his fellow scribes and Pharisees.
To a man well-grounded, not only on the Law and Prophets but in the worldly knowledge of the Pharisees, Nicodemus could not grasp the profound meaning of what Jesus told him. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This proclamation by Christ was totally alien to the ears of Nicodemus. How could a man undergo such a second birth in the physical sense? But Nicodemus was focused on the mundane facts of worldly life and not upon those things heavenly of which the Lord spoke.
Patiently, the Lord Jesus Christ led Nicodemus into a completely fabulous dimension of thinking. Nicodemus was a thinking man, but he could not tell from whence the wind came or went. The simple truths of the Gospel are so observable to the enlightened heart, but the details are often not known. The inner workings of the Holy Spirit are likewise unobservable to the naked eye, but the results are as profoundly observable stormy gales on the sails of the ship.
Finally, Jesus told Nicodemus of His Heavenly descent and ascent. ““And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” This fact should serve to expose the lies, no matter how sweetly spoken, of those yellow novelists who claim to have been to Heaven, or Hell, and returned. Only Christ has descended and ascended to Heaven. There is a gulf fixed between the things worldly, and Heaven or Hell, which no man can cross once sent to one of those two destinations. We can enter the Gates of Splendor only through that certain transport that is Christ. In Him, we shall arise at the last day.
Please observe the gradual change in the faith of Nicodemus from the three times John makes mention of him:
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night.” (John 3:1) He came stealthily at night but drawn by a mysterious curiosity.
“Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. 47Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. 50Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:45-51) Now, Nicodemus is emboldened to speak out in defense of Christ.
Finally, Nicodemus has the courage to be counted among those who loved the Lord and followed after Him: “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.” (John 19:38-3)
The Jewish rulers were keen to observe every sign of support for the crucified Lord, but Nicodemus came at the last hour openly full of courage and conviction. The more intimately we know the Lord, the greater our faith and courage.