Nicodemus’s conversation with Jesus in John 3:1-15 is sometimes regarded as an illustration of the tremendous stupidity of the Jews of our Lord’s day. Nicodemus is treated as just some guy who comes to Jesus at night because he doesn’t want to get into trouble by being seen with Him. Nicodemus tries to butter Jesus up by telling Him that he and his pals know that Jesus has come from God. Then, when Jesus says that one must be born again-from-above, Nicodemus is so dumb or sarcastic that he says, “Uh, duh, well, uh, how can a person be born when he’s already old, huh? Uh-hyuh, uh-hyuh! He can’t just crawl back, uh, into his momma and be born again, can he?”
Well, uh, duh, no, that’s not what is going on. First of all, the Holy Spirit is not wasting His breath showing us Jesus putting down various morons. This conversation is included because it is profound. Second, John’s gospel deals with profound depths, as all expositors agree, and so again this is not some stupid conversation. Third, Nicodemus was a member of the great Sanhedrin (John 7:50), which means he had served in a local sanhedrin as a judge for a number of years before being selected to the first small sanhedrin, then after more years advancing to the second small sanhedrin, and finally being approved to be one of the 70 members of the Great Sanhedrin (Article, “Sanhedrim,” in McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature ). He was therefore an older man, probably twice Jesus’ age and worthy of respect. Fourth, Jesus tells us that Nicodemus was “the teacher of Israel” (John 3:10). Are we to take this as sarcasm, unworthy of the spotless son of man who knew to respect the aged? No, Jesus means what he says: Nicodemus was the preeminent theologian and teacher in Israel, and therefore on the surface of the earth, and not a fool.
Finally, Nicodemus was not at all reluctant to defend Jesus in public (John 7:50) and to be seen helping to bury him (19:39). (I’ll bet Caiaphas was pretty angry about that.) He came to Jesus at night in order to have a long conversation with Him uninterrupted. The notion that Nicodemus was not a believer does not stand up. He certainly was a faithful old covenant believer who was headed for paradise. If by “regeneration” we mean someone who has a life with God and is destined for heaven, Nicodemus was regenerated every bit as much as Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah.
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