We find the story of Nicodemus in three places in the Bible, all in the book of John. I experienced a new appreciation for Nicodemus after watching the TV series about Jesus’ life, “The Chosen.” He is the one character whose story brings me to tears every time I watch it! There is a lot we don’t know for sure, but God has given us plenty of information to paint a fascinating picture. So who was Nicodemus?
Who was Nicodemus?
Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish sect of influential Pharisees and a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. Nicodemus held the prominent position as ruler of the Pharisees, an enormously powerful position. He was a wealthy man of power and status.
Pharisees pledged to obey all traditions and laws down to the smallest detail. They became arrogant, however, because of their belief that they were the only ones able to interpret the word of God. (For Jesus’ own opinion on the Pharisees, see Matthew 23!)
We meet Nicodemus when Jesus’ public ministry was just beginning.
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with Him.’” John 3:1-2 NIV.
Why Did Nicodemus Approach Jesus at Night?
Scripture doesn’t tell us, but several reasons have been hypothesized:
•Was he simply an inquisitive, curious seeker who was interested in Jesus’ teaching and ability to perform miracles?
•Was he afraid to come in the daylight for fear of being seen with Jesus? He might have lost his position, wealth, and status if he came to see Jesus of his own free will. The fierce opposition to Jesus by the Jews was already growing daily.
•It was Passover, perhaps he wanted to wait until dark when the crowds had thinned and Jesus had finished teaching?
•The Sanhedrin sent a delegation to investigate John the Baptist (John 1:19-20). Did Nicodemus go to Jesus as their representative to investigate and question Jesus?
•Did Nicodemus have a longing to discern if Jesus could be the long-awaited Messiah?
Nicodemus and Jesus
Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ statement and gets right to the heart of the matter:
“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” v3 NIV. (Born again translates “born from above” in Greek.)
Nicodemus takes Jesus’ words literally and questions a physical rebirth. He believed his status as a Jew meant he was born directly into the kingdom of God. It made no sense to him that there was another way to heaven.
Nicodemus is confused when Jesus explains being born again means being born of the Spirit. “How can this be?” (v9) he asks.
Jesus expresses amazement that Nicodemus, a brilliant teacher of vast knowledge, failed to understand the Scripture’s meaning regarding being born of the Spirit. Nicodemus should have known of God’s promise of a spiritual rebirth- “I will put my Spirit in you“- from Ezekiel 36:26-27.
But Jesus perseveres with Nicodemus.
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
Jesus reminds Nicodemus of the Old Testament story of Moses and the Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21:4-8).
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” v14-15.
As the the bronze serpent was lifted up on a pole, all who looked upon it and believed would not die, but live. This story foreshadows the cross.
Jesus was telling Nicodemus that He would be lifted up (on the cross) like the bronze serpent to save the people from eternal death.
Jesus then gives Nicodemus the great truth about God’s plan for salvation in simple terms that remain one of the most well known and revered Bible verses:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” v16.
That appears to end this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, but we see Nicodemus again twice more.
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Nicodemus the Pharisee
It is now about 6 months before the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is most likely that Nicodemus was aware of what Jesus had been up to since their original night-time meeting. He probably was aware of Jesus’ continued healings and teachings.
In John 7:50-51 we see Nicodemus speaking to a gathering of the Pharisees. But the Pharisees were growing impatient and frustrated with Jesus and had planned an unlawful seizure of Him by the temple guards. Nicodemus speaks up in Jesus’ defense:
“Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, ‘Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?’” v50-51.
Nicodemus didn’t make a straight forward declaration of faith in Jesus. Instead, he protests an unlawful action based on their own rule of law. To declare Jesus the Son of God at this point would not have changed the Pharisees minds, but by raising a legitimate legal objection, he could possibly protect Jesus.
Isn’t it ironic that the Pharisees, who were such sticklers for keeping the law, circumvented it for their own personal reasons when it came to Jesus?
Nicodemus had turned from seeker/skeptic to defender.
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea
Our last look into the story of Nicodemus comes after Jesus’ crucifixion.
“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.” John 19:38-40 NIV.
Like Nicodemus, Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin. Isn’t it interesting that 2 members of the Sanhedrin attended to Jesus, but not one of the 12 disciples helped? They abandoned Jesus in fear and confusion.
Did Nicodemus Bury Jesus?
Nicodemus and Joseph were both wealthy, powerful men. (The amount of burial spices Nicodemus provided were costly. The extensive amount was typical for the burial of kings.)
Nicodemus’ cooperation with Joseph in burying Jesus shows us his love and devotion. Nicodemus’ faith had finally matured to the point where he courageously stepped out with Joseph and gives Jesus a private burial. Their actions showed they were willing to give up everything to care for Jesus.
What Happened to Nicodemus?
The Biblical story of Nicodemus ends with Jesus’ burial. My Bible commentary states that neither man appears in the Jewish records or traditions of their time, presumably because they were seen as traitors; their names erased from all records.¹
The Bible does not tell us their fate. Our answers will come in heaven. But until then, I believe Nicodemus was an honest seeker who progressed to defending Jesus in court, and then boldly proclaims his faith by his actions.
What did Nicodemus Learn from Jesus?
In the beginning, Nicodemus was the “teacher of teachers” but still did not understand being born of the Spirit. But Nicodemus sought out Jesus for answers to his honest questions. He learned that acting “religious” and knowing Scripture would not gain him entrance into heaven.
Each one of us must study the person of Jesus for ourselves and decide if we believe that He is who He says He is- our Savior. He is not put off by your honest questions!
We often see Nicodemus described as an “undercover” believer. It took a while for Nicodemus to grow firm enough in his faith to act on it.
But Jesus was patient with Nicodemus and is the same with you and me. God is on the lookout for our spiritual growth!
How does your faith manifest itself in actions?
Are there areas in your life where you are an “undercover” believer?
Nicodemus surrendered his life to Jesus when he came out in public and assisted Joseph in His burial. His faith and devotion to his Messiah triumphed over his fear of losing his wealth and power. And this was before the resurrection! Oh how I wish we knew more of Nicodemus’ story!
Do you speak up for Jesus to unbelievers?
Has fear ever stopped you from defending Jesus?
Lessons From Nicodemus
•We all may have a bit of a Pharisee in us from time to time, but the Holy Spirit lives within us to convict us and lead us to confession and genuine change.
•When Nicodemus hid his interest and faith in Jesus, he gained material things: he kept his status, power, wealth, and position.
But he lost out on the intimate teachings of Jesus, a life lived with Him on earth, and the presence of His peace and joy in his life.
When he boldly came forward for Jesus, he most likely lost his reputation and job. But he gained eternal life!
A life lived in relationship with Jesus is a daily surrender that will always cost us something.
When we allow Jesus into our lives, He becomes our priority, our satisfaction, and our peace. No idol, possession or relationship compares.
As committed followers, we realize He is worth infinitely more than anything or anyone else. He alone brings joy and peace into our earthly lives as we await our forever life with Him in heaven.
If we face rejection by others because of our faith, they are rejecting Him, not us. Don’t take it personally- be “anxious about nothing“! (Philippians 4:6)
How often do you have a one-on-one conversation with Jesus like Nicodemus?
How does your spiritual transformation compare to Nicodemus’?
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV. (What a beautiful promise!♥)
“Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” Psalm 2:12b NIV.
- Barker, Kenneth L. and Kohlenberger III, John R. Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Volume 2: New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI, 1994.
Related Post∼Here’s a story of another Pharisee who had an encounter with Jesus: The Apostle Paul in the Bible.
21 thoughts on “The Story of Nicodemus”
I really don’t have the words expect the studying the series of The Chosen , I have read your history of Nicodemus and every time I see The Chosen it feels my heart and soul of wanting to know Jesus even More,Thank you so much
I’m so glad, Penny! I love the Chosen! Season 3 is being filmed right now, and I can hardly wait to see it 🙂 It connects me with Jesus in a way I never have before. Nicodemus was my favorite story so far in the series- he came so close to following Jesus! What wonderful lessons he teaches us. God bless you!
Thank you so much!
How i wish and pray to watch the “Chosen”
Please help me!
Thank you very much
You will love it! Here’s the link to watch the complete series- https://watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen
Would we only be able to tell that he had believe if it was mentioned in the scriptures?did he belief in his heart that Jesus is Lord.
I am at a point in my life where I feel like my years of experience as a Christian are nothing. I am at a point where i want so many answers and I feel a great urge for an intimate relationship with Jesus.I believe but is not enough???I seek daily for an encounter.
What we know of Nicodemus from the Scriptures do not come out and tell us he believed Jesus was Lord. We can look at his actions and surmise as such. For a Pharisee to go to the cross and help with a burial would have been unthinkable. While researching Nicodemus’s life, I found that Jewish writings removed his name from their records- another clue that he did believe in Jesus? “We see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12) now, but move forward in faith that there are some things not critical to our faith that will be revealed to us in Heaven. My own relationship with Jesus has evolved over the years, but the recent airing of the show “The Chosen” has given me an intimate look at how Jesus lived His life here on earth. Have you seen it yet? It is free, no subscription needed! There is a link in the Nicodemus post. Give it a try and see if, like me, it sparks a new love and desire for Him in your life. (Spoiler- Jesus does not appear until the end of Episode 1, Season 1….) but this Biblically based show is truly helping many people like yourself experience Jesus in a whole new way!
I would love to know what you think of it and if it helps you!
I am retired and a widow. I watched the chosen and loved the Torah prayers that all of the group said first thing every morning. So every morning when I finally thought of it, I would say their prayer. I would say it in Jesus’Name as He instructed. And then I told him what hurts me. How much I wish for Him to take my fears away, and how I wanted to wake up each morning….how I want to feel when the day begins.
I asked Him to give me those. I asked each night, and He listened. One day I woke up exactly as I wished. Making your way to Him requires a show of attention. Constancy. But not hard work. When you are alone and it’s quiet, speak to Him. Talk to Him. Continue to ask Him for the spiritual attributes you wish you had. . And if you need a way to begin this conversation each time, try this:
Blessed are you,Lord, King of the Universe.
Thanks to you for the salvation of my soul.
Blessed is your faithfulness to me.
It is in the Name of Jesus I pray this. (From The Chosen/Torah)
Then begin a conversation. And repeat this as often as it comes to you. And ask Him to MAKE it come to you. And then, if you think of talking to Him, and then you say you’ll do it later, He is answering you …to call on you, and you said no. If you ask Him to speak, you must listen. And soon you will see that the King of the Universe is the Best Friend you have ever had. As He says in the Chosen, God wants your heart. And He can change your heart when you are speaking and listening to Him. All my love to you as a Christian. My heart is filled with your need. I had to find the easy path to Him myself. Chat it up!
Loved your story of Nicodemus!!! My husband and I are watching The Chosen, and it broke my heart to see Nicodemus so broken and torn to follow Jesus! He wanted to do very much! I just wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him to follow Holy Spirit tugging at him so hard.
Oh, I feel you Mary Ellen! That episode brings tears to my eyes every single time! What a wonderful actor. I guess he quit working in Hollywood due to the violent content of movies he was asked to be a part of. Then along came the Chosen! He is perfect for the part. I’ll be watching Episode 7 in about a half an hour! There is quite a bit more about Nicodemus in other books. I can’t wait to meet him in heaven!
Thank you for the update
Thanks for reading!
wonderful insight and research you have done. Thank you.
Thank you Mariaan for your kind words and the encouragement they bring. Nicodemus’s story is fascinating to me and I learned a lot by digging into his life. I’m so glad it found it’s way to you!
“My Bible commentary states that neither man appears in the Jewish records or traditions of their time, presumably because they were seen as traitors; their names erased from all records.¹” I did a study on Nicodemus and discovered that his Hebrew name was Nakdimon ben Guryon of Talmudic lore and remembered him for his great wealth. He was listed as one of the 3 wealthiest men of Jerusalem at the beginning of the Jewish revolt and helped finance the fortification of Jerusalem. (Gittin 56a).
He is also famous for one of the most fabulous miracles of the second temple period according to the Talmud. (Ta’anit 19b-20a; Nakdimon is also known as Buni.) The b Sanhedrin 43a reports the Sanhedrin executing a disciple of Yeshua (Jesus) named Buni.
I had also read that the Jews thought him to be a traitor and erased his name! What miracle is he famous for? I hadn’t heard about that. (I love doing historical research 🙂 Thanks for all the great info!
Thank you so much, I now understand nicodemus more than before. It has increased my faith and courage.
Thank you Joshua for the encouragement and kind words. I learned so much as I was researching his story! God bless you 🙂
Thank you for breaking that down for us. You have set me on the right path in my spiritual journey of the true crucifixtion story. I’m realizing now that the disciples weren’t there but Nicodemus and Joseph were; now to study them more.
Also, did you ever hear of them being compared to Zeus and Hermes?
Hi Andrea! I’m so glad you found it helpful! I haven’t heard of the connection between the Greek gods, but I did find a lot of Jewish and historical writings on Nicodemus that were fascinating!
This was excellent, Ann. I learned so much about Nicodemus. Thank you! ❤️😊
Thanks Cindy, it was fun to write, and I learned a lot too!