All too soon we have arrived at the curtain call for this series; Emunah. Our journey on learning more on faith has taken us through various lessons from characters like the woman with the issue of blood to Jairus and also to Gideon. Our hope is that the lessons revealed within these characters’ stories will not remain as reading material you skimmed over, once upon a time. Instead allow these lessons to become practical principles in your life, bolstering your faith and enriching your relationship with God. On that note, we have one more character to learn from. Let’s meet him.
He was a member of the Sanhedrin; the Jewish ruling council. This council functioned as the ultimate religious, legislative and educational body of Palestinian Jews. They were learned men and often revered for their wisdom. Not only was he Sanhedrin but more specifically he was a Pharisee, a sect within the Sanhedrin that held firmly to legal traditions which were not necessarily Scriptural. They also believed in resurrection after death and expounded on the idea of priestly purity for all Jews. They were an elite group of known legal experts. Yet with all his learned ways and esteemed position Nicodemus recognized another man (Jesus) as a teacher from God, despite the negative image the Pharisees held of Him. Hence he visited Jesus at night and in the course of their conversation asked a question that has become quite popular ‘How can one be born again when they are old?’ He is Nicodemus.
The story of Nicodemus is chiefly chronicled in the Gospel of John chapter 3 verses 1-21, where he had the iconic conversation on salvation with Jesus. Nicodemus is also mentioned in John 7:50-51 and later again in John 19:39. When we piece the entire story of Nicodemus together we see him go from believing that Jesus is a teacher but only visiting Him under the cover of darkness (John 3:2) to boldly defending Him before other Pharisees (John 7:50-51) and finally to assisting in His burial after the crucifixion (John 19:39). What does Nicodemus teach us on the topic of faith?
There are a few theories on why Nicodemus visited Jesus, yet the one that holds true is that Nicodemus recognized Christ’s authority and was curious to learn more about Him. This immediately cues us in that Nicodemus was a humble and discerning man willing to learn more from others regardless of their educational or social standing, so long as the person represented God. These qualities serve him well in reconciling what he had been taught all his life with the message Christ preached to him, Scripture does not say what it was exactly that Nicodemus sought to know but we do know that right from the onset of their discussion Jesus begins to talk about salvation. However this salvation or being born again as He describes it, is nothing like what Nicodemus has been told all his life or indeed what he himself teaches others. In fact the act of salvation that Jesus describes seems biologically impossible! To understand the salvation Jesus was talking about Nicodemus had to practice Emunah. Nothing in the laws he practiced so religiously had prepared him for the concept of being born again, in fact in John 3:9 we see Nicodemus ask ‘how can these things be?’
Now Nicodemus along with the other Jews would have been eagerly awaiting the coming of the Christ. The salvation they pictured was one that had military might. They were under the rule of another nation and so to them being saved translated as coming out from under the rule of others. Furthermore, Nicodemus lived according to the law, which was, at the time, the way through which one could be found right with God. It must have been startling then for Nicodemus when Jesus starts to talk about being born again in order to see the Kingdom of God. It takes great faith to learn a new dimension in God when you have been taught something else your whole life. Only Emunah (trust and reliance in God), allowed Nicodemus to see the bigger picture and to slowly come to the realization that the salvation the Jews pictured was just a minuscule aspect of what God planned to do.
The lesson we can learn here is to not restrict our faith to the known pathways or solutions that we expect God to take. That is the antithesis of Emunah. We must trust that God will make a way, even if there seems to be no way, and rely on His Word which He has promised will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11). When we practice faith the Emunah way we allow ourselves to experience God in new and diverse ways because we do not limit Him.
Another lesson we learn from Nicodemus’ story is to patiently grow in faith. When Nicodemus first approaches Jesus it is under the cover of darkness. He is not confident about being seen with Jesus in public. However the next time we see Nicodemus he is publicly defending Christ before his colleagues, which is a testament to the fact that his faith in Christ had increased. Ultimately at the time of Jesus’ death and burial when all the disciples except for one had abandoned Him, these men who had publicly walked with Him, Nicodemus (who had started in the shadows) shows his faith and unashamedly assisted Joseph of Arimathea with the burial of Jesus’ body. It doesn’t matter how small your faith is when you begin your journey with Jesus, what matters is that you begin that journey and grow in your faith as you go along.
If you take nothing else from this series, take this; trust and reliance in God simply because of who He is will serve you well in your walk with God. It will teach you patience and longsuffering even as you hold on to hope like the woman with the issue of blood. It will teach you that regardless of your social standing or the naysayers around you, if you rely on God like Jairus did He will turn His face towards you and be gracious to you. It will teach you that even when you think you are unable, God will enable you for the work to which He has called you like he did for Gideon. It will teach you that even if you begin your journey with God under the cover of darkness like Nicodemus, your faith can grow exponentially as you continue in God.
Let these lessons be more than words. Learn them. Live by them. Teach them to others. And whenever you feel as though your faith is faltering, remember Emunah. Remember that we believe simply because He is, and has proven Himself time and again. Remember that when we reach out to Him in faith, He rewards us for it. Until next time, keep believing.