The Evolution of Nicodemus

John 3:1-2 “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night.”

While we don’t believe in the evolution of the species; there is an evolutionary process at work in the lives of all men! That evolutionary process can either be positive or negative. The evolutionary process effects mankind in multiple areas of life; spiritually and socially, just to name a few. With reference to spiritual evolution, Peter closes his second epistle with these words; “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). This process can be seen at work throughout the Word of God. It is manifested in the changing of Abram’s name to Abraham (Genesis 17:5); Jacob’s name to Israel (see Genesis 32:28). It is manifested in the changing of locations; Abraham leaving Ur (see Genesis 12) and Naomi’s going to, and leaving Moab (see Ruth 1:2&6). Spiritually, you are evolving; positively or negatively!

I am drawn to the spiritual evolution of Nicodemus; a process that appears to be positive in its process. As we begin to study the process on the life of Nicodemus, we discover something of interest; Nicodemus is only mentioned five times by name and those five times are in reference to three specific events. The second point of interest is that only one gospel writer calls Nicodemus by name. All three appearances of Nicodemus are recorded by John the Beloved in the Gospel of John. An examination of these events reveals the positive evolution of Nicodemus.

In John 3:1-9, we have the inquiry of Nicodemus, “Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him” (John 3:1-2). When one considers who Nicodemus was, it necessary to understand that he was not an ignorant man. In John’s description of him, he is described as “a man of the Pharisees . . . a ruler of the Jews.” This reveals that Nicodemus was educated in Scripture and elevated in society. While he was educated and elevated, he was not enlightened in the Spirit. When I think of Nicodemus, I view him as being much like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. Both men had worshipped at Jerusalem, but had left the service with a void that only God could fill. This void drove both men to inquire; Nicodemus questioned the Saviour, and the Ethiopian questioned Philip. Both sought to know more, thus they were willing to inquire!

In John 7:45-53, we have the interceding of Nicodemus, “Nicodemus saith unto them . . . Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:50-51). Jesus has become the target of the Chief Priest, Pharisees, and Sadducees. They sought to silence the Saviour by taking him captive, giving Him a mock trial, and ultimately having Him put to death. There among the controversy, as to the real identity of this person called Jesus, Nicodemus interceded in Christ behalf! Please note the sharp remark of Nicodemus’ peers; “Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (John 7:52). The thing that generated the inquiry as well as the interceding was the fact that Nicodemus had searched and looked! Nicodemus was driven to the Scriptures by a thirst for more enlightenment. Speaking to the legalistic Jews, Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). The difference between Nicodemus and the legalistic Jew was the manner in which they approached the Scriptures. The legalistic Jews searched the Scriptures to reinforce what they already believed; Nicodemus searched the Scriptures to form what he believed. For the Jews, their ignorance was enlarged; for Nicodemus, his spirit was enlightened!

In John 19:38-42, we have the involvement of Nicodemus, “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea . . . besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus . . . And there came also Nicodemus” (John 19:38-39). If there were any questions as to whether Joseph and Nicodemus were disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ; they were eradicated when they openly sought the body of the Saviour. While they may have failed to totally identify with Jesus in His life, they would step from the shadows into the light by identifying with Him in His death. Please note the words of John concerning Nicodemus; “which at the first came to Jesus by night” (John 19:39). Darkness may have shrouded the first visit, but he has perpetually been moving toward the light and he has now emerged in full view for all to see!

Looking at the three appearances of Nicodemus, we see the evolution of Nicodemus; his inquiry, his interceding and his involvement. Driven by desire that was generated by the void of truth, Nicodemus sought enlightenment in the depths of God’s Word. The Word not only formed his beliefs, but it fortified his boldness. Nicodemus evolved from being a seeker in the darkness to becoming a servant in the light. We see the positive aspects of evolution in Nicodemus’ life; which direction is the process working in your life?