A member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, at first a Pharisee, and afterwards a disciple of Jesus. He was early convinced that Christ came from God, but was not ready at once to rank himself among His followers. In
Joh 3:1-20, he first appears as a timid inquirer after the truth, learning the great doctrines of regeneration and atonement. In Joh 7:45-52, we see him cautiously defending the Savior before the Sanhedrin. At last, in the trying scene of the crucifixion, he avowed himself a believer, and came with Joseph of Arimathea to pay the last duties to the body of Christ, which they took down from the cross, embalmed, and laid in the sepulchre, Joh 19:39.
the people is victor, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. He is first noticed as visiting Jesus by night (Joh 3:1-21) for the purpose of learning more of his doctrines, which our Lord then unfolded to him, giving prominence to the necessity of being "born again." He is next met with in the Sanhedrin (Joh 7:50-52), where he protested against the course they were taking in plotting against Christ. Once more he is mentioned as taking part in the preparation for the anointing and burial of the body of Christ (Joh 19:39). We hear nothing more of him. There can be little doubt that he became a true disciple.
A ruler of the Jews, a master ("teacher") of Israel, and a Pharisee. John (Joh 3:1-10) alone mentions him. John knew the high priest (Joh 18:15), so his knowledge of Nicodemus among the high priest's associates is natural. John watched with deep interest his growth in grace, which is marked in three stages (Mr 4:26-29).
(1) An anxious inquirer. The rich were ashamed to confess Jesus openly, in spite of convictions of the reality of His mission; so Joseph of Arimathea "a disciple, but secretly for fear of the Jews" (Joh 19:38). The poor "came" by day, but Nicodemus "by night." By an undesigned coincidence marking genuineness, Jesus' discourse is tinged, as was His custom (Joh 6:26-27; 4:7-14,35), with a coloring drawn from the incidents of the moment: "this is the condemnation that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light", etc.; "every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light ... but he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God" (Joh 3:19-21). Nicodemus was now a timid but candid inquirer; sincere so far as his belief extended. Fear of man holds back many from decision for Christ (Joh 7:13; 9:22; 12:42-43; 5:44; Pr 29:25; contrast Isa 51:7-8; 66:5; Ac 5:41).
Where real grace is, however, Jesus does "not quench the smoking flax." Many of Nicodemus' fellow rulers attributed Jesus' miracles to Beelzebub; Nicodemus on the contrary avows " we (including others besides himself) know Thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles which Thou doest, except God be with him." Nicodemus was probably one of the many who had "seen His miracles on the Passover feast day, and believed (in a superficial way, but in Nicodemus it ultimately became a deep and lasting faith) when they saw" (Joh 2:23-24); but "Jesus did not commit Himself unto them ... for He knew what was in man," as He shows now in dealing with Nicodemus. Recognition of the divine miracle. working Teacher is not enough for seeing the kingdom of God, Jesus with a twice repeated Amen solemnly declares; there must be new birth from above (margin Joh 3:3,5,7), "of water (the outward sign) and of the Spirit" (the essential thing, not inseparably joined to the water baptism: Mr 16:16; Ac 2:38 (See BAPTISM) ), so that, as an infant just born, the person is a "new creature"; compare Naaman the type, 2Ki 5:14; 2Co 5:17; Eze 36:25-26.
For, being fleshly by birth, we must continue fleshly until being born of the Spirit we become spiritual (Joh 3:6). Nature can no more east out nature than Satan cast out Satan. Like the mysterious growth of the child in the womb, and like "the wind" whose motions we cannot control but know only its effects, "the sound," etc., so is the new birth (Joh 3:8; Ec 11:5; 1Co 2:11). Such was the beginning and growth of the new life in Nicodemus (Mr 4:27). Regeneration and its fruits are inseparable; where that is, these are (1Jo 3:9; 5:1,4). Nicodemus viewed Jesus' solemn declaration as a natural man, "how can these things be?" (Joh 3:4,9; compare Joh 6:52,60; 1Co 2:14). Yet he was genuinely open to conviction, for Christ unfolds to him fully His own divine glory as having "come down from heaven," and as even then while speaking to him "being in heaven" in His divine nature; also God's love in giving His Son, and salvation through the Son who should be lifted up, as the brazen serpent was, to all who look to Him in faith, and condemnation to unbelievers.
(2) A sincere but as yet weak believer. The next stage in Nicodemus' spiritual history appears Joh 7:45-53. Naturally timid, Nicodemus nevertheless remonstrates with bigots. The Pharisees, chagrined at the failure of their officers to apprehend Jesus, said, "why have ye not brought Him?" They replied, "never man spoke like this man." The Pharisees retorted, "are ye also deceived? surely none of the rulers or the Pharisees have believed on Him, have they? (Greek) But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed." Here one who, as they thought, should have stood by them and echoed their language, ventures to cast a doubt on their proceedings: "doth our law judge any before it hear him and know what he doeth?" (compare Le 19:15; Ex 23:1). Indignantly they ask, "art thou also of Galilee? ... out of Galilee hath arisen (Greek) no prophet." Spite made them to ignore Jonah and Nahum. John marks the spiritual advance in Nicodemus by contrasting his first coming "by night" (Joh 7:50). He now virtually confesses Jesus, though in actual expression all he demands is fair play for an injured Person. As before he was an anxious inquirer, so now he is a decided though timid believer.
(3) The third stage is (Joh 19:39) when he appears as a bold and strong believer, the same Nicodemus (as John again reminds us) as "came at the first to Jesus by night." When even the twelve shrank from the danger to be apprehended from the mob who had clamored for Jesus' crucifixion, and whose appetite for blood might not yet be sated, and when Christ's cause seemed hopeless, the once timid Nicodemus shows extraordinary courage and faith Christ's crucifixion, which shook the faith of others, only confirms his. He remembers now Jesus had said He "must be lifted up," like the brazen "serpent," that all believers in Him might have eternal life. So Nicodemus had the honour of wrapping His sacred body in linen with 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes, in company, with Joseph of Arimathea.
Christ's resurrection richly rewarded the faith of him who stumbled not at His humiliation. Compare on the spiritual lesson Mt 12:20; Zec 4:10; Pr 4:18. Like Mary who "anointed Christ's body to the burying," "what Nicodemus did is and shall be spoken of for a memorial of him wheresoever the gospel is preached throughout the whole world." Where real desire after the Saviour exists, it will in the end overcome the evil of the heart, and make a man strong in faith through the Holy Spirit. The Talmud tells of a Nicodemus ben Gorion who lived until the fall of Jerusalem, a Pharisee, wealthy, pious, and of the Sanhedrin; bearing originally a name borne by one of the five rabbinical disciples of Christ (Taanith, f. 19, Sanhedrin f. 43); and that his family fell into squalid poverty.
A Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin (Joh 3:1; 7:50), elderly (Joh 3:4) and evidently well-to-do (Joh 19:39). He is mentioned only in the Fourth Gospel, and there he figures thrice. (1) At the outset of His ministry Jesus went up to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of the Passover, and His miracles made a deep impression on Nicodemus, half persuading him that He was the Messiah; insomuch that he interviewed Him secretly under cover of the darkness (Joh 3:1-21). He began by raising the question of the miracles, which, he allowed, proved Jesus at the least a God-commissioned teacher; but Jesus interrupted him and set him face to face with the urgent and personal matter of regeneration. Nicodemus went away bewildered, but a seed had been planted in his soul. (2) During the third year of His ministry, Jesus went up to the Feast of Tabernacles (October). The rulers were now His avowed enemies, and they convened a meeting of the Sanhedrin to devise measures against Him (Joh 7:45-52). Nicodemus was present, and, a disciple at heart but afraid to avow his faith, he merely raised a point of order: 'Doth our law judge a man, except it first hear himself and know what he doeth?' (RV). (3) At the meeting of the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus to death Nicodemus made no protest; probably he absented himself. But after the Crucifixion, ashamed of his cowardice, he at last avowed himself and joined with Joseph of Arimath
One of the Pharisees and a teacher in Israel. He came to the Lord by night for instruction, and was greatly astonished to find that, instead of instruction, he needed to be born again. See NEW BIRTH. To this the Lord added that the Son of man must be lifted up: sin must be condemned, and the Son of God be given in love, in order that whosoever believeth in Him should have everlasting life: that is, heavenly blessings in new creation. Nicodemus afterwards grew bolder, and suggested in the council that the Lord ought to be heard, and His acts examined before He was condemned. The last we read of Nicodemus is that after the crucifixion he brought about a hundred pounds' weight of myrrh and aloes to embalm the Lord's body. Joh 3:1-9; 7:50; 19:39. This last act was a tacit acknowledgement of his attachment to the One to whom he had come for instruction, but who had spoken to him of God's love, and of heavenly blessings through the Son of man lifted up, and whom he had attempted to defend in the council.
(conqueror of the people), a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews and a teacher of Israel,
whose secret visit to our Lord was the occasion of the discourse recorded only by St. John. In Nicodemus a noble candor and a simple love of truth shine out in the midst of hesitation and fear of man. He finally became a follower of Christ, and came with Joseph of Arimathaea to take down and embalm the body of Jesus.
NICODEMUS, a disciple of Jesus Christ, a Jew by nation, and a Pharisee, Joh 3:1, &c. At the time when the priests and Pharisees had sent officers to seize Jesus, Nicodemus declared himself openly in his favour, Joh 7:45, &c; and still more so when he went with Joseph of Arimathea to pay the last duties to his body, which they took down from the cross, embalmed, and laid in a sepulchre.