Jesus told Nicodemus, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe (understand); how then will you believe (understand) if I speak of heavenly things?”(Jn.3: 12). Nicodemus was not just an ordinary person. His name stood for “a conqueror of people” and was known to Jews, Greeks and Romans. In addition he was a teacher of the Jewish law and a member of the elite or Pharisees. His party was similar to our Republicans, and his opposition the Sadducees was similar to our Democrats. The nation that once was the most unique on earth under Moses, Joshua and the Kings David and Salomon, was in the hands of Herod an Idumean and the Romans. Heaven no longer had a role in Judaism. Jesus had come to change it back and Nicodemus did not understand or believe that it was possible. How do we relate to Nicodemus and his religious and political world?
First of all, it had to do with attitude. Americans are wrapped in the idea that they are unique and their pride has separated them from heaven. They do not believe that they ought to repent and return to God. In fact, they think, they are doing what God wants them to do. Like Nicodemus, we are far from God and do not know it. He belonged to a group that believed in certain exercises and sacrifices that pleased God (Mt.9: 9-13). Being in love with himself, he had separated himself from the people and as a result imposed his Pharisaic system on them. Nicodemus needed a miracle in his own life and did not deem it possible. To the contrary, Jesus told Nicodemus that he could have it on earth by opening his heart to the Son of God that could teach him how to become a victorious person and leader (Jn.3: 4-9). What about us?
The second problem was that Nicodemus was aiming for heaven or like our politicians for a utopia; yet, he could not believe or understand how do deal with the problems on earth. He was reaching for a world that he was not fit for. He had come to Jesus, knowing that he was a teacher sent from God and he wanted to know about heavenly things. Jesus specifically told him that he must first understand his role on earth before he takes aim at heaven. Religion was not an escape mechanism from the world, but a tool to serve it. It was the correct grasp and application of religion on earth that would qualify Nicodemus, and everyone else, for a better world (Jn.3: 10-15). Perhaps those of us that hope to escape the troubles in this world may want to examine our belief or understanding of what ought to be done with the problems we have created? Perhaps a little bit of heaven may not be a bad idea?
The third problem was human goodness. “I am so much better than that sinner” (Lk.18: 9-14). It was true that Nicodemus was a good person and so are we. Yet, it was under his watch as it was under ours that atrocities were committed legally. They killed sinners and we kill babies and protect criminals. Their Traditions of the Fathers like our progressive judicial system was a burden to the people (Mt.23). The relationship between these leaders and the people was deplorable. They had hatched laws and regulations to sustain their life-style and system and they used God to give it credence (Mk.7: 6-13). It is not amazing how human goodness, our political and religious correctness plague the people of the good and old U.S. A? The similarity between Nicodemus the good man and our good legislators, and the belief in our own goodness is astounding.
The fourth and biggest problem for Nicodemus was being afraid to be seen in public with Jesus? Under the cover of darkness he sought his counsel and became convinced that Jesus was of God and so was His message (Jn.3: 1-2). Yet, he became a secret follower, like so many of us. He had no influence on the other leaders, just as we no longer have. And he watched while they disposed of Jesus, just like we have in this country. We do talk much about heaven in our religious meetings; then, we appear to be helpless in coping with the world in which we live. There is definitely something amiss in our belief and understanding of what Jesus could mean for our world.