“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV
He emerged out of the ancient wolf pack. Though he came bearing wolf’s clothing he was really a sheep in disguise. His name was Nicodemus and he was a Pharisee and a member of the ancient Sanhedrin.
Nicodemus ate a steady diet of the law for the better part of his life. Yet he had a hungry heart. After feeding on the stale bread of the religious leaders, he set his sights on the Bread of Life. Nicodemus wanted to taste heaven. So when he heard Jesus’ teachings He was unable to resist the stirring in his heart. He slipped out of the wolf pack and arranged a secret meeting. (See John 3:1-21)
During the night under a blanket of stars and an eavesdropping moon, Nicodemus humbled himself. He stepped out from under his esteemed title and became a lowly student under the leadership of the Great Teacher. He listened as Jesus challenged the very foundation on which he had built his faith. This precious meeting was the genesis of a born again life. It was on that evening that a Pharisee began to shed his wolf’s clothing to become a sheep in the flock of Jesus Christ.
After that night there were two Nicodemus sightings in Scripture. In the first sighting Nicodemus defended Jesus before the Sanhedrin.
In John 7 we step in the middle of a heated discussion between the Pharisees and the temple guards. The Pharisees were enraged at their failure to arrest Jesus. In verse 48 the religious leaders posed a sweeping question.
“Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him?”
I am certain the question burned Nicodemus. He did not remain silent. Nicodemus had tasted heaven, and the aftertaste propelled him to defend justice.
“Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. (Vs. 51)
But Nicodemus’ bravery collided with the Pharisees’ arrogance. Not only did the religious leaders dismiss his query, but they actually took the opportunity to insult his intelligence. (Vs. 52)
Can you imagine the predicament Nicodemus faced working alongside men who were in complete opposition to his personal convictions? He was swimming against the tide of corruption. It was the blossoming of childlike faith in his heart that made Nicodemus turn away from the establishment.
It was the final sighting of Nicodemus in Scripture that made this humble servant world-renowned. His role in the crucifixion story has left an indelible mark on this world. Let’s visit the final encounter with Nicodemus.
Much to the pleasure of the religious leaders, Jesus was made an example and nailed to the cross, another incident that propelled Nicodemus to action.
Nicodemus wanted Jesus’ body prepared for a proper burial. So he boldly stepped out of the wolf pack along with Joseph of Arimathea and approached Pontus Pilate to request Jesus’ remains.
Can you imagine the risk involved to come forward when emotions were raw, when actions were controversial, when the organization you belonged to created the scandal that rocked the ancient world? A host of difficult emotions! A risk so great and so costly! But Nicodemus’ eyes were turned to something far more important ~ the broken body of Jesus.
Can you imagine how painful it must have been for this sheep to prepare Jesus’ unrecognizable body for burial? How difficult it must have been for him to look upon Jesus’ precious body tortured by sin. How traumatic it must have been to expose his heart to such devastating pain. But what a priceless gesture Nicodemus offered Jesus. A heart captured by the love of God is a beautiful thing! And childlike faith is precious before the Lord!
Just like the Apostle Paul was groomed by the law so too was Nicodemus. He poured himself into the wrong theology ~ until his life collided with the Savior. That’s when he abandoned the law in pursuit of the Truth. With childlike faith he became a Christ follower even to the cross. He traded his lavish title in the ranks of the Sanhedrin for a new title ~ son of the most high God.
A heart absorbed by rules. Overthrown by grace. And transformed into a child. Now that’s a God story! And so very beautifully written!
Question to Ponder
Are you feasting on the Bread of Life or does your diet consist of the stale bread of the law?