Nicodemus wrapped his Sudarium cloth around his head and pulled the ends around to conceal his face. ‘It wouldn’t do to be recognized on the streets of Jerusalem tonight”, he thought. He then stepped into the cool darkness, lifting his fine linen robe to avoid dragging the long tassels. He had arranged for a secret meeting with a most controversial Rabbi named Yeshua. “I’m a respected member of the Sanhedrin court, a devout Pharisee”, he said under his breath. He hurried along the dark streets. “I have memorized the Torah. I have interpreted it thoroughly with the Mishna. I have read all of the commentaries of the Talmud. Why do I need to consider this man?” Nicodemus continued to question his own logic as he arrived at the secret meeting place. Yeshua was there waiting.
Nicodemus had thought of his opening line in far in advance of their meeting. The miracles Yeshua was performing, such as the healing of a leper, had never been performed since the giving of the Torah. Indeed, the Babylonian Talmud confirmed it. Only the Messiah could perform this miracle. He had remembered the message Yeshua sent to the imprisoned John the Baptist when asked if He was the Messiah…
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”, Yeshua had replied. (Luke 7:22)
Yes… all these miracles, they are the very ones deemed unique to the Messiah in the Talmud. He must tactfully put Yeshua on trial to prove His identity. So as Nicodemus approached the young Rabbi, he began with flattery:
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”, Nicodemus said as he sat facing the younger man.
The flattery fell flat as Yeshua responded, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”.
Nicodemus was not surprised. A skilled debater and teacher himself, he well understood the rabbinical method of using figurative language to teach spiritual truth. So he continued on using Yeshua’s symbolism:
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
But Yeshua… JESUS… HEARD A HEARTFELT CRY through the wordplay: “It’s too late for me to go back. I am an elder, a Pharisee of Pharisees. I can’t just start all over!”
He then looked deep into the eyes of Nicodemus and answered,
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus was suddenly reminded of the words of the prophet Ezekiel:
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will REMOVE FROM YOU YOUR HEART OF STONE AND GIVE YOU A HEART OF FLESH. And I will put my Spirit in you… and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
“NO! NO! this CAN’T be right!”, Nicodemus screamed silently, “The Mishna, the Talmud… I… I am a Pharisee of Pharisees!”. His thoughts betrayed him.
“How…How can this be?”, He heard himself transparently asking the Rabbi.
“You are Israel’s teacher”, the Rabbi replied, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
Nicodemus was beginning to understand. It was as if, suddenly, the Torah itself began to point him to Yeshua Jesus. As if his eyes were opened for the very first time. He felt born again.
“FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.”, Yeshua went on. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Nicodemus was filled with emotion at this Word, this Man, Yeshua Jesus. “Truly this is the Son of God”, he mumbled… and he believed.
As he left their meeting, Nicodemus no longer crept quietly along the streets of Jerusalem. Indeed, he found himself singing the psalms of joy as the warm Israel sun began to rise in the east.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning”, sang Nicodemus, as he made his way home.