“There was a man of the Pharisees named, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to Jesus by night.”
This is the only place that this encounter is presented in the scriptures but the event is nothing new. This man had been raised up by the eternal hand of God to the specific position of a ruler of the Jews. His parents enrolled him in the proper schools and his heart and mind were drawn out after the things of the religious society of the times. He had risen through the ranks and paid his dues in the realm of the Pharisees until he came to the appointed position of ruler. His word was sought after by the people in both religious and civil matters because the two are intertwined. God had raised him up unto his appointed hour, confident and sure of all he had done and everything he was doing. He believed his way was correct and his attitude projected his faith. Yet this powerful man was drawn to come to Jesus under the stealth of darkness because something troubled him.
The order of the Pharisees was a distinct and separate order which was perceived to possess the ability to ‘rightly divide’. They were a very closed and restrictive order who did not tolerate dissensions or diversions from the accepted practices. These practices were derived from the continual searching of the Law and the oral traditions of the passed ‘honourable men’. These teachings were a result of the natural theology of Adam in his attempt to make the Law of God relevant to daily activities by perverting it so man can keep it. They revolved around the customs of man in the observances of days, various washings, dietary restrictions, limited activity on venerated days and a strict adherence to the Ten Commandments. Years of training in the ancient text of Torah and the traditions of the Talmud were part of the daily rituals of these men as they earnestly strove to be faithful before God by being obedient to the Law of Moses.
Ever aspect of their lives was interwoven into the observance of these principles for God had given their hearts this insatiable desire for the ‘hidden things of antiquity’ as He blinded their eyes to the truth. They dressed in certain attire, making their robes long, the borders of their garments opulent and their phylacteries evident (Matt.23:5). This was done to bring the attentions of man unto themselves. They presented themselves in their religious splendour in the public places so the eyes of Adam could gaze upon them as they exhibited their ‘zeal for Yehovah’. They made lavish gifts in feigned piety, craved the highest seats in the meeting place (synagogues) and the chief rooms at the feasts (Luke 20:46) because they were full well convinced that they knew and possessed the truth. Thus the keeping of the law by traditions was concluded as righteousness and those who ordered their lives accordingly were esteemed blameless (Phi. 3:6).
This man called Nicodemus was not only a high ranking official as the ruler of the Jews, but as one who could discern (Pharisee) he also was one who had obtained. His name means ‘the conqueror’ or more appropriately, ‘victorious people’. He not only stood as one who had overcome the difficulties of the confusion of the Law but he had mastered it and conquered it. This made him one who the Pharisees themselves would look to as a role model and master teacher. When the disputes came forth over words, such as pronunciations, or the placement of jots and tittles, Nicodemus was consulted. When the values of those things called ‘kasher’ or ‘fit’ were disputed, men such as he would give rulings on what was acceptable. Their opinions were sought out on what must be the tithe of mint and cumin and the Sabbath day’s conduct was stipulated by their standards for they were men of distinction who had overcome.
Nicodemus was also a part of the governing elite. He sat together with the upper echelon of the Pharisaical bureau. When these noble aristocrats heard how the people believed in Jesus as Messiah because of His teachings and the miracles which He performed they sent officers to take Him that He may answer in private before them. When these executive subordinates returned empty handed the chief priests and the Pharisees rebuked them yet they answered, “Never man spake like this man”. This infuriated the tribunal who accused their servants of being weak and deceived and told them to look about for none of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him. “But this people who know not the law are cursed” (John 7:47ff).
Nicodemus however was kicking against the pricks in his heart for he asked the fellow men of distinction a very simple question, “Does our law judge man before it hears him and knows what he does?” (7:51). The Pharisees were concerned with their popularity and how this man Jesus had eroded it. They did not like the fact that wonders and miracles were being performed as the hand of Yehovah was revealed before them. They did not care that the prophesies of old were being fulfilled before their very eyes and in their presence. They were blind to the wonders of the Light that had come into the world to lighten the nations and the glory of Israel and they were deaf to the Word of God. They were convinced of their righteousness to the point that they did not need deliverance and of their purity so that they did not need the physician to heal them. Nicodemus however was convicted in his soul as the Spirit drew Him to seek out Jesus.
Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dark of night to conceal himself from his fellow hypocrites. The only difference between he and them was that he was aware of his dilemma while they, saying they could see, remained in their sin (John 9:41). All the teachings and all the practices had left confusion and questions in his mind which he could not justify. If Jesus was Messiah why did He not come to the Pharisees since they were the keepers of the Law? If Jesus was Messiah why did He waste His time with publicans and sinners and if all the works which Nicodemus had done were good and proper, why did Jesus rebuke him as a Pharisee? He spoke as no man had ever spake. He, as the poor son of a carpenter, knew the scriptures better than all the scholars and learned ones and the people believed Him. This was not the conquering King who should return unto Israel vanquishing her enemies and exalting her faithful. This was not David and the armies of heaven returning in the latter days to set up His earthly kingdom for instead of assuming the throne in the Temple, He spoke of tearing it down and rebuilding it in three days. Everything this man stood for was contrary to the accepted teachings and practices of the day but more importantly, everything that Nicodemus held true.
“...and said unto Him, Rabbi...”
As a ruler of the victorious people of Israel, Nicodemus was driven by the Spirit within to address Jesus in an amazing manner as he called Him Master. Not just any master but a literal translation of what he said would be ‘my Great One’ or ‘my Mighty One’. This could have been construed as a polite greeting between equals as they called each one an ‘honourable sir’ out of respect but Nicodemus came to Jesus and he did so under the cloak of night. He did not want anyone else to see him with Jesus and he certainly did not openly confess the fact that the Galilean child of poverty was equal to the grandeur of the people of distinction.
This proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus not only demonstrates the teaching of the Spirit of God within this man but it also manifests the presence of the truth despite the over abundance of festering dung called Adam’s theology. Nicodemus had spent his entire life thoroughly engulfed in the research and assimilation of the ways of the Law. He was given to believe that a man could keep the Law of God and present himself perfect before Him. This teaching of man’s theology infers that God is a respecter of man’s conduct and that He rewards the intentions of their hearts. This is once again pure conditionalism, highly esteemed among men and an abomination before Yehovah God.
The Pharisees loved to be called of men, Rabbi, for it was the praise of accomplishments and the badge of honour. They also loved to call each other Rabbi as a gesture of equality and comradery but Jesus told His disciples; “Be not called Rabbi for one is your Master even Messiah and all you are brethren” (Matt. 23:8). A man can only have one master whom he serves; if there be two masters he will love the one and hate the other but he cannot serve them both alike. No man can call Jesus, Rabbi, except it be given of God (Nathanael) to say, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49).
But the Spirit of God was impressing upon this man that his works of righteousness were insufficient to measure up to the perfect standard of the righteousness of God. He like the ‘scornful men that rule this people which are in Jerusalem’ of the time of the prophet Isaiah, thought he had his “covenant with death and an agreement with hell, when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us, for we have made lies our refuge and under falsehood have we hid ourselves” (Is. 28:15). He was fully convinced that his obedience to the commandments, as he understood them and as Adam interpreted them, was sufficient to avert the righteous judgment of God, but now it was being manifested to him that his bed was shorter than he could stretch himself and his covering (atonement) narrower than he could cover himself (28:20). He came to Jesus because He had the words of life, and though Nicodemus was not yet aware of the presence of God within, yet according to His loving kindness the Spirit drew Nicodemus unto Himself. Nicodemus thought himself proper in coming to Jesus to introduce himself as a master teacher in Israel but indeed it was Jesus who brought Nicodemus unto Himself. And so the exalted mountain called Nicodemus was brought low as he bowed reverently before Messiah and called Him ‘my Master’ (Is. 40:4).
“...we know that you are a teacher come from God for no man can do these miracles that you do except God be with him.”
Nicodemus was abased before His presence and acknowledged Him to be a master teacher. He was humbled by His teaching and bewildered by His understanding yet he could find no other conclusion than that God was with Him. The miracles which were in fulfillment of the prophesy of old (Is 66), which Nicodemus should have known but as yet his heart did not understand, spoke of the signs and wonders which the Anointed should do but more importantly they spoke that He would ‘preach good tidings unto the meek” (Is. 61:1). The deeds which Jesus did were not to convert people and gain unto Himself a people but were signs and wonders as condemnation upon an evil generation. His Word was contrary to the accepted duty faith preaching of the day, as it is today, and His message was for but a few, the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He did not cater to the elite, the rich or the noble and he sought not the praise of man. His words were of power and authority as He instructed His followers to “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).
Jesus came and proclaimed the acceptable year of Yehovah but He renounced the attributes and aggrandizement of Adam. He preached the mercy and forgiveness of God for the sins of His people but He condemned the practices of the people’s religion. Nicodemus found himself in a quite a conundrum; if he was right then Jesus was wrong, if Jesus is wrong and God be with Him then God is wrong, but if Jesus was right and God was with Him, then Nicodemus was wrong and had been his entire life. The acknowledgment of the presence of God with Jesus meant that he was greater than the Pharisees who had the ancient men with them, greater than the prophets for they spoke of Him and greater than the Law for He spoke of mercy rather than sacrifice. “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6).
The counterfeit river, Temple, feasts and religious world were being revealed in Nicodemus. God commands His people to come out and be separate because they are not of the world. He also instructs them to be not partaker of the sins of Israel, whereby they made commerce of the truth of the pattern of heavenly things and trafficked the types and foreshadows of the glory of God into prominence and fame; herein they committing whoredoms with the kings of the earth and were become “Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of all Harlots and abomination of the earth” (Rev. 17:5).
The Pharisees esteemed themselves separate and distinct and the proper declarers of the truth of the scriptures. The Spirit of the Most High indwells His people because they are eternally separated and joined unto God. He leads them in the paths of righteousness for His names sake and has given them to rightly divide the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). The Pharisees strove daily to pierce into the core of the Law in order to search out the unsearchable riches of His goodness but only the Word of God is sharp enough to “pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and the marrow and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Therefore while Nicodemus was attempting to be politically and religiously correct, Jesus spoke to his soul and answered the unasked question of righteousness before God in His Kingdom.
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Surely of the truth, I say unto you, Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Nicodemus came to Jesus confident in the arm of his flesh as he had kept all these things from his youth upwards. He did not think it was necessary to rehearse his attributes before Jesus for his position and the acclaim of man were sufficient credentials. Therefore he stood well sure of his worth unto the kingdom in which he should rule according to the promise of God. But Jesus speaks directly to the truth and looks not on the outward appearances. By his own words, Nicodemus has affirmed that Jesus is a master teacher come from God so when Jesus proclaims, “Surely of the truth” Nicodemus has no recourse but to conclude that this was the Word of God.
Only a child of grace knows the truth for the Word of God is the Way the truth and the Life (John 14:6). Man cannot hear His voice and does not understand His meaning therefore the various and sundry theologies of the world are diverse and convoluted. One who is indigenous to the house of the King however knows the language of the land and hears their Father’s voice and thus the preaching of the death, burial and resurrection of Messiah is foolishness to the inhabitants of this world but life and peace to the children of hope.
Nicodemus was hearing the Word of God from The Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among His people and what he heard was contrary to the doctrines, customs and ways of Adam. He heard the truth about the incorruptible seed which is eternal in the Father. He heard that the seed was born anew into the earthen vessel and that without this wondrous miracle from above man cannot even see the kingdom of God. The elite Zionism’s of the Pharisees who professed themselves sons of Abraham, children of promise and the chosen people of God were immediately decimated as Jesus revealed that it is “not by might nor by strength but by My Spirit saith Yehovah of Hosts” (Zech. 4:6). The aspirations for the earthly kingdom wherein these righteous men would sit upon the twelve thrones and judge Israel was not for those who were blameless according to the works of righteousness which they had done but was reserved for those “which were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, but of God” (John 1:13).
Nicodemus came to Jesus as the conqueror who had overcome the vanity and wretchedness of man but Jesus revealed the impotence of the power of man and his sin. Nicodemus wanted to join himself unto Jesus in some sort of affiliation and typical confederacy that the nation of Israel was politically accustomed to, but Jesus told him that if a man is not already born anew he will never be joined unto God and His kingdom for nothing can endear man unto God. Nor can anything disannul the eternal love which God has for His “chosen generation, a royal priesthood and Holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should shew forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light: which in times past not a people of God but now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (I Pt. 2:9f). This is the love of God manifested in His children as they become partakers of flesh and blood and nothing can separate them from His love; “Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rms. 8:37).
Nicodemus was comfortable in the fact that he has overcome the Law and had an understanding of how to manipulate the inner workings so that a man could keep the commandments and walk in the statutes of God. Jesus revealed the fact that just as a man had no power, no choice and no right in his earthly birth, save in the seed in Adam in the appointed time ordained of God, so that handwriting of ordinances, wherein Nicodemus had hope, was indeed the ministration of condemnation against the labours of Adam. The law became the judge of Nicodemus rather than his salvation as his natural faculties attempted to grasp and understanding of what Jesus had just spoken.
Jesus did not instruct Nicodemus that he needed to get born anew for that is not the truth. He did not say that someday when he was born again he would see the kingdom of God either. Jesus said “Except a man BE born again” which would indicate a state of being rather than an aspiration of accomplishment and Nicodemus could not comprehend the meaning.
“Nicodemus said unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (3:4).
Adam thinks he has control over the events concerning the natural man and even teaches a doctrine called ‘free will’ wherein he chooses the course that he walks and the decisions which he makes. When armed with this (in)ability and faced with this seeming contradiction, the mind retreats to its primal functions; that which is natural. Nicodemus knew nothing about a sinner’s prayer in order to get born again and Jesus certainly did not mention such sanctimony, nor could He. Therefore the natural mind of Nicodemus reverted back to the natural birth and concluded that the same process needed to be followed for a man to be born a second time. Jesus never said that a man must be born a second time but rather that he needed to be born anew or from above. The mystics and poets of man’s culture often depict the stork bird delivering the new born baby from above but Jesus said that which is born of the flesh is flesh. Since Adam was formed from the dust of the earth, then, that which is born of the dust of the earth is dust of the earth; “for dust you are and unto the dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).
The mind of Nicodemus was centered upon the remaking and rebirth of the natural man in a natural way as if this was a necessary ingredient unto the attaining of the kingdom of God. However, that which is born of the Spirit of God is spirit and if they be spirit than are they the sons of God. Since therefore they are sons of God then are they heirs of God and joint heir with His Anointed of His Kingdom which it is the good pleasure of the Father to given unto them (Luke 12:32). Thus whosoever is not born anew cannot see the kingdom for the eyes of dust are blind to the glory of God.
“Jesus answered, Surely of the truth I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (3:5).
Jesus was not presenting yet another form of birth but a further description of the birth which is from above. The birth of every child of Adam is of the water and if a chosen vessel afore prepared unto glory by the shed blood of the Lamb of God, then the birth of the Spirit is concurrent with the first. Jacob held the heal of Esau as he came forth from the womb but that which was natural was first in manifestation yet they were joined in the delivery and appeared as one. Two nations were in the womb of Rebekah and two manner of people were separated from the beginning as the light was separated from the darkness. Never could Esau be loved of God for God said He hated Esau and never could God hate Jacob for He declared that he loved this child of promise. The two struggled together in the womb of their mother and none could dissuade them from their ordained course. This is the type of the birth of the natural man, Edom, and the spiritual man, Israel, and this type is fulfilled in Christ who made Himself of no reputation and took upon Himself the form of a servant. He is the bodily manifestation of the invisible God and so are His children as they travel through this present evil generation.
The inhabitants of this world seek an earthly kingdom where they can rule over their fellow man. The religious society of man seeks the same and proclaims themselves as the heirs apparent to the throne, just as Nicodemus, John the Baptizer and the disciples anticipated; “Lord wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). Those who are born from above know that the Kingdom of our God is not the Israel of the Middle East; “for they are not all Israel who are of Israel, neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Rms. 9:6). The Kingdom of our God is not of this world yet He rules over the kingdoms of this world and gives them to the basest of men (Dan. 4:17). His children have overcome the wicked one by the shed blood of the Lamb of God (I John 2:13). They have tribulation in this world but they have peace in Him and peace with the Father because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). They are in the world but not of the world and when the time of this habitation is over, then shall the sons of God be manifested as the glory of the Kingdom of our God is revealed.
Nicodemus was struggling within himself for all his labours were of no value, all of his understanding was foolishness and all of his accomplishments were as filthy rags before the righteous throne of God. Yet in the appointed hour, when it pleased the Father, the light shown forth into his heart and he knew the truth. He came with the other disciples and took the body down off the cross to prepare it for burial as they laid Him in the sepulchre, wherein never a man had laid (John 19:39). He was numbered among the disciples who grieved in His death and rejoiced in resurrection as the Babylonian garments of Nicodemus were being laid aside ad the glory of God revealed. This is growing in the grace and knowledge of His will.
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God” (I John 5:13)
Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
December 28, 2014