This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: John 19:39 ‘And there came also Nicodemus, he who at the first came to hi

This Week’s Focus Passage: John 19:39

‘And there came also Nicodemus, he who at the first came to him by night’

There are only five occasions of the name, Nicodemus, being found in the Holy Scriptures. Nicodemus is the name of an individual that is found solely, in the ‘Gospel According to John,’ and, in extremely unique settings, and that, as we already said, no less than five times. The first three of these five notable verses containing his name, is that found in the very first verse of chapter three, where we may read the following ‘introductory’ words about this person, from the ASV-1901:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came unto him [Jesus] by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him.—John 3:1-2. 

Contained in the, “Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, volume 4,” we find the following information regarding the person named Nicodemus, in the Gospel of John: “Nicodemus; Although the name was common among the Jews of the 1st cent., this is the only man in the NT to bear it (3:1). A Nicodemus ben Gorion, who was a brother to the historian Josephus, a very wealthy member of the Sanhedrin in the 1st cent. has been identified by some with this man in the NT who came to Jesus by night. Nicodemus ben Gorion later lost his wealth and position so that some have attributed this reversal of circumstance to his having become a Christian. The identification is unlikely.

Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews which meant that he was a member of the court of seventy elders, known as the Sanhedrin, which was the highest religious body among the Jews. He was also described as “the” (article present in Gr.) teacher of Israel. This did not mean that he was a teacher superior to all other teachers, but simply that he was the well-known and acknowledged teacher who even had a place in the Sanhedrin. It could be expected of such a man that he knew the OT well indeed. As a teacher “of Israel” it was pointed out that he had a special responsibility for the religious instruction of the people of God. The fact that Nicodemus was a Pharisee was related directly to the conversation that Jesus had with him, for such a conversation would have been impossible with a Sadducee or a Herodian. Nicodemus was of interest to the author of the fourth gospel because he afforded an opportunity to set out Jesus’ teaching. Only the first part of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is set in dialogue (3:2-10). What else may have been said by Nicodemus was set aside by John because the subject introduced through him upon which Jesus commented was the all-important consideration.” 

And, it must be stated, or, we must be reminded that this interview between Christ and Nicodemus, showcases one of the most important, if not truly, the most “important saying, or statement, in the entirety of the Newer Testament, or even in the whole body of Scripture, namely, Jesus’ response to this Pharisee’s first sentence to Him, when He told him clearly [obviously, from Nicodemus’ response, not clear enough], Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew [or, from above], he cannot see the kingdom of God. The responses of this ‘teacher of the Jews,’ in two ensuing verses, that is, verses four and nine, How can a man be born when he is old? and, How can these things be?, we are tempted to say, have become classical places where the name of Nicodemus is once more employed by John. Subsequently, Jesus gently rebuked him for not understanding, since he was a Pharisee and a teacher of the law to the Jews, and should have understood. But, by the grace of God, this inquirer, and his name are found later on in John’s gospel account. He is included in a narrative of the seventh chapter, and verse fifty, as well as in a narrative contained in the nineteenth chapter, and at verse thirty-nine. 

In the seventh chapter, the context of the narrative of verses 45-52, is that of the officers that had been sent by the Pharisees, according to verse 32, to take Jesus, that is to arrest Him and bring Him to them. When they returned without Him, 

The chief priests and the Pharisees said unto themWhy did ye not bring him? The officers answered, never man so spake. The Pharisees therefore answered them, are ye also led astray? Hath any of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees? But this multitude that knoweth not the law are accursed. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to him before, being one of them), Doth our law judge a man, except it first hear from himself and know what he doeth? They answered, and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. In this Pharisaical response, which amounted to an attack upon Nicodemus, we witness an aggression which may inform us, even retrospectively, that Nicodemus has had a ‘change of heart,’ yea, a radical change, even perhaps. But this is the fourth occasion of the appearance of his name in the text of John.

The fifth, or next, occasion of the name and person of Nicodemus, referred to by John, is to be found in chapter nineteen, and verse thirty-nine. This narrative follows that of the largest, or greatest, part of our Savior’s ministry. It includes also His “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem, His announcement to His disciples that He was going away, but that He would send another Comforter to them. The remaining narrative also include His washing the feet of His disciples, His farewell discourse, as it is commonly called [although there is nothing whatever common about it], The Farewell Prayer, in chapter seventeen, and ultimately, the betrayal, the arrest and trial of Jesus by the Jewish leaders, upon which He is turned over to Pontus Pilate, and the Roman government. Pilate would set Him free, but the threats of the Jews, saying that they would report to Caesar that this Jewish rabbi claimed to be a King. Pilate, in fear for his throne, his position, maybe even his life, yielded to their cries, and he turned over Jesus to them to crucify Him; to nail Him to a Roman cross. He dies on that cross; His body is taken down, and given upon his request, to Joseph of Arimathaea. We then read, He came therefore and took away his body. And there came also Nicodemus, he who at the first came to him by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. So they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. So here, at the burial of Christ, Nicodemus gives substance and confirmation to that faith that had grown, from its beginning with his discourse with the Savior of the world. As Yogi Berra, is so often quoted as saying, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.”

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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