We have explored Nicodemus’ night time visit with Jesus in John 3. Today John gives us second scene in the life of Nicodemus. Jesus has come to the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem. He has been teaching at the Temple courts. We hear whispers in the crowd.
25 “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill?” 26 “Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? ” John 7:25-26
31 Many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man? John 7:31
The religious leaders had about had their fill of Jesus. His ways were not their ways. They had had their trick questions for him, but he always seemed to get the best of them. His popularity with the people in Galilee was one thing, but now here he was in Jerusalem stirring things up.
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. John 7:32
Rome had Roman soldiers to take care of disturbances, but they allowed the religious leaders to have their own Temple guards to take care of religious concerns. The Temple guards have been called on to arrest Jesus. The Sanhedrin (high Jewish court) waits in their gathering chamber for the guards to bring him in. I can imagine, as they wait, they discuss again all the things they find distasteful about Jesus. At last they hear the Temple guards coming, but they discover the guards are empty handed.
45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. John 7:45-46
I imagine the decibel level goes up a few notches as the hot-tempered Pharisees respond to these milk-toast soldiers.
47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Has any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” John 7:47-49
Now what are they to do? Nicodemus has been sitting quietly taking all this in. He probably understands exactly what the soldiers were saying—”no one ever spoke the way this man does.” Nicodemus rises to his feet and patiently addresses the high court members.
50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” John 7:50-51
Well, there it is. One short question. One obscure verse you may not have read before. Nicodemus is reminding them of their own laws. Does this slow them in their tracks? Hardly. Instead, they lash out at Nicodemus.
52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” John 7:52
Actually, Jonah was from Galilee and other prophets could have been, but that’s beside the point. Nicodemus tried to diffuse their angry tempers. He stood up, not exactly to defend Jesus, but at least to bring the leaders back to who they purport to be.
We look at challenges we may face—the temptation to remain silent when we need to speak up or the challenge to diffuse angry, unhealthy talk. Can we stand up to be used by God? Can we speak up to bring calm, love, and reason to problem discussions?
This is still not a full commitment for Nicodemus, but we can see yet another step of development on his part. Unfortunately, it will only grow more difficult.
Next week, we will look at the final picture John gives us of Nicodemus.
~ Joyce ~