“You must be born again.” John 3:7 (NIV)
Who did Jesus say these well-known words to? Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council (3:1).
Nicodemus was a ruler. That means he had risen to the top of his profession. He had a successful career, and behind that there was talent, a good education, and a great deal of hard work.
Nicodemus was also a Pharisee. When Paul lists all the credentials he had before he met Christ, he mentions he was “in regard to the law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3:5). In other words, in the first-century world this was about as admirable as you could get.
Some Pharisees opposed Jesus, but others were open to Jesus, and even affirmed his ministry. Nicodemus says, “We know that you are a teacher… from God” (John 3:2). So he seems to be saying, “There are a number of us who are drawn to what you are saying and impressed with what you are doing. We are interested in opening a conversation with you and learning more.”
Then Nicodemus says to Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (3:4). He is speaking about himself, so we can safely assume that Nicodemus was a mature person, with an established career, probably in his 40s or 50s.
Nicodemus “came to Jesus by night” (3:2). There is a certain caution about him. He has questions for Jesus, and he wants to explore them in a quiet, thoughtful, and private way. So when the crowds are gone, he comes to where Jesus is staying. And Jesus welcomes him. Gives him time. Picture these two men sitting at a table with an oil lamp burning late into the night.
Where do you most relate to Nicodemus?