Nicodemus [Nĭco dē'mus]—innocent blood or victor over the people. An elderly and somewhat wealthy Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin (John 3:1-9; 7:50; 19:39).
Whenever Nicodemus is mentioned it is always with the label, “the same that came to Jesus by night.” Why is this master in Israel always spoken of in this way? Was he a coward, afraid of what the fellow-members of the Sanhedrin would say if they saw him seeking out Jesus? We feel that he came by night because it was the best time for both Jesus and himself to have a quiet, uninterrupted conversation about spiritual matters. Nicodemus had been occupied all day with his teaching duties, and Jesus had been active in His out-of-door ministry. Now both could relax and talk through the night. It may be that Nicodemus had such a heart hunger that he could not wait until morning, and so came running to Jesus as soon as he could.
There had been no direct voice from God in Israel for a long time, and here was One whose message carried the stamp of divine authority. So Nicodemus, the cautious enquirer, but a man of spiritual perception (John 3:2), sought out Christ, and listened to one of His remarkable conversational sermons. Nicodemus figures three times in John’s gospel:
He came to Christ (John 3:2). This master in Israel confessed Christ to be a Teacher sent from God and heard that in spite of his culture, position and religion, he needed to be born anew by the Spirit of God. His name, meaning “innocent blood,” is suggestive. Nicodemus came to realize that his salvation was dependent upon the shedding of innocent blood (John 3:14, 16).
He spoke for Christ (John 7:45-52). As a fair-minded man, Nicodemus, although a disciple at heart and afraid to avow his faith, raised his voice on behalf of Christ as the Sanhedrin devised measures against Him. The rulers were His avowed enemies, and Nicodemus raised a point of order in favor of the One he had learned so much from. Perhaps he should have been more courageous and outspoken on Christ’s behalf. When the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to death, there was no protest from Nicodemus. It is likely that he absented himself from that fateful meeting.
He honored Christ (John 19:39, 40). After the death of Christ, ashamed of his cowardice, Nicodemus rendered loving though belated service to Christ. Openly he joined Joseph of Arimathaea, another secret disciple, in preparing Christ’s body for a kingly burial. But the dead cannot appreciate our loving attention. Mary gave her spices to Jesus while He was alive. It is better to give flowers to the living than reserve them for their burial.