Golden Pillar Class Study, teacher Leslie Crain.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee leader of the Jews. The Pharisees were meticulous about keeping the letter of the law but weren’t concerned about the spirit of the law. Regarding their phylacteries and enlarging their borders, the phylactery was a box strapped to the arm or the forehead. Inside each phylactery were four passages from the Old Testament. (Exodus 13:1–10, 11–16; Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21). The purpose was to remind them to keep the commandments.
Matthew 23:1-5 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and…disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All…they bid you…observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but…will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
The Israelites were supposed to lay up God’s words in their hearts. The Pharisees made it an outward thing by enlarging their boxes (phylacteries) so everyone would notice how religious and holy they were.
Deuteronomy 11:18-20 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:
Numbers 15:38-40 Speak unto…Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them…seek not after your own heart and…eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy…
Jesus brought correction to the Pharisees about wearing the phylacteries to be noticed but it wasn’t to condemn them. They lost sight of the correct intent to remind them of God and honor him. All they could see was their legal system.
Matthew 23:5-7 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
Nicodemus may have been in the crowd that heard Jesus preach. Nicodemus went to see Jesus at night to ask questions. He may have been ashamed to be seen with Jesus. That night at Capernaum Nicodemus heard a new message about spiritual birth and eternal life. Maybe they were both busy during the day but scripture doesn’t say why he came at night. Nicodemus was responsible as a member of the Jewish ruling council to find out about any who might lead the people astray.
John 3:1-17 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith 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? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin according to John 7:50-51. The term Sanhedrin is from a Greek word that means “assembly” or “council.” God commanded Moses to have this council.
Numbers 11:16-17 And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.
The land was divided up among the tribes into towns and villages, and there was a Sanhedrin court in most towns. A Sanhedrin functioned as lower courts. Under Roman authority in Christ’s time, the Sanhedrin in each city of the Jewish nation was allowed to make legal decisions. Jerusalem was where final decisions of Jewish law and religion were made. This Sanhedrin ultimately condemned Jesus to die. They had to get Pilate’s approval for the death penalty since that was beyond their jurisdiction under Roman law. Nicodemus seems to have been part of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.
Deuteronomy 16:18-20 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
John told about much dissention and unrest among the common people, the chief priests, and the Pharisees regarding Jesus. The chief priests and Pharisees even sent officers to take Jesus but they didn’t do it.
John 7:12 And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.
John 7:25-26 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?
John 7:31-32 And many…believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? The Pharisees heard…people murmured such things…the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.
Nicodemus opposed the whole council by proposing that they question Jesus in an impartial and unprejudiced hearing before they condemn him. They wouldn’t listen even though they knew what he suggested was what the law taught.
John 7:40-51 Many…when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David…of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? So there was a division…because of him. And some…would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees…unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in Jesus’ burial. Joseph asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. Nicodemus brought a large amount of spices to prepare the body. He assisted Joseph to wrap and put it in the tomb. It showed great respect for Jesus. There are many things the Bible doesn’t say about Nicodemus. Was he a true believer? What did he do after the resurrection? Nicodemus may not have openly declared he was a disciple of Jesus but his final action was one of faith. Christ accepted Nicodemus when he came and met him where he was. He didn’t condemn or reject Nicodemus. Christ still asks us to come to him wherever we are – with doubts, fears, questions, hang ups, problems, stress, anxiety, or sorrow. Don’t try to figure it out in your own strength or you’ll be discouraged and open a door for the enemy to condemn and confuse.
Mark 15:43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor…went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.
Luke 23:50-52 And…a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;)…of Arimathaea…went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
John 19:38-40…Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which…first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices…