Who Was Nicodemus and What is His Story?

Nicodemus said to Him (Jesus), “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

John 3:4

What He’s Famous For

The two questions Nicodemus asked above are his claim to fame.

What the Bible Says About Him

But let’s see what the Bible says about him.

He was a Ruler of the Jews, a Pharisee

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (John 3:1).” 

The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect who strictly followed their written traditions based on the Law of Moses. They passed these traditions down from generation to generation. By reputation, they were prideful and hypocritical. To protect their positions and because Jesus wasn’t bringing God’s Kingdom in by force, the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah.

He was a Secret Disciple

“He came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him (John 3:2).”

Jesus Taught Him Heavenly Truth

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night because his fellow leaders would harass him for even meeting with Jesus. Based on the signs Jesus did, Nicodemus knew that Jesus came from God. So, he accepted Jesus as his Messiah, but covertly.

Jesus asked him a question couched in a metaphor:

“Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).”

But Nicodemus only Knew Earthly Truths

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born (John 3:4)?”

“Jesus answered… flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5-6).” 

Jesus explained He meant a person must have a spiritual birth to see the Kingdom

He was THE Teacher of Israel

“Nicodemus said to Him, “How can this be? ”Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, but you do not know these things (John 3:9-10)?” 

Jesus said Nicodemus was THE teacher of Israel, not just A teacher. Yet, Nicodemus struggled to understand Jesus’ teaching, even about earthly things. Jesus tells Nicodemus that He came from heaven (and God), so He’s teaching heavenly truths that must be spiritually understood (John 3:11-15). The place He came from is too unfamiliar to Nicodemus.

He Defended Jesus’ Claims

Later in Jesus’ ministry, when the other Jewish leaders were condemning Jesus, Nicodemus did his best to defend Him:  

Nicodemus, being one of them who came to Jesus by night, said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing (John 7:50-51).

Though he was unsuccessful in his defense, Nicodemus did take a step toward revealing himself as a believer in Jesus.

He Cared for Jesus’ Body

The Bible mentions Nicodemus again soon after Jesus died on the cross. He and Joseph cared for Jesus’ body and placed Him in Joseph’s tomb:

“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission. So, he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about seventy-five pounds (John 19:38-39).”

He Revealed His Allegiance to Jesus

Joseph had also been a secret disciple of Jesus. But now, he makes his allegiance public, and so does Nicodemus.

“Then they took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews…. So, because of the Jewish Day of Preparation, and since the tomb was nearby, they buried Jesus there (John 19:40, 42).

Who Was Nicodemus and What is His Story?

A Pharisee and leader of the Jews.

THE teacher of Israel.

Taught heavenly truth by Jesus, who said he must be born again.

A secret disciple of Jesus who eventually made his allegiance public.

The man who anointed Jesus’ body and helped Joseph lay Jesus’ body in the tomb.


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