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Jesus changed a Pharisee’s life

April 30, 2024

Daily Scripture

John 3:1-13, 7:50-52, 19:38-41

John 3
1 There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew [or from above], it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”
4 Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”
5 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 God’s Spirit [or wind] blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”
10 Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? 11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One [or Son of Man]. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son.

John 7
50 Nicodemus, who was one of them and had come to Jesus earlier, said, 51 “Our Law doesn’t judge someone without first hearing him and learning what he is doing, does it?”
52 They answered him, “You are not from Galilee too, are you? Look it up and you will see that the prophet doesn’t come from Galilee.”

John 19
38 After this Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate if he could take away the body of Jesus. Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one because he feared the Jewish authorities. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took the body away. 39 Nicodemus, the one who at first had come to Jesus at night, was there too. He brought a mixture of myrrh and aloe, nearly seventy-five pounds in all. 40 Following Jewish burial customs, they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the spices, in linen cloths. 41 There was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

We sometimes see Jesus as a rather “vanilla” figure, nice but innocuous. In fact, he often gave people astonishing, life-changing moments. He met with Nicodemus—a Pharisee whose authority came from religious status attained through strict visible piety. Jesus’ invitation to inner spiritual rebirth left the seminary-trained religious leader puzzled and amazed. The evidence of Nicodemus’ later behavior strongly suggests that their nighttime moment changed Nicodemus a lot.

  • Just before the Nicodemus story, John told about Jesus driving out the Temple money changers (cf. John 2:13-25). That challenged the Pharisees’ economic power. Nicodemus may have come at night (John 3:2) so other Pharisees didn’t see him with Jesus. At night, Jesus invited the Pharisee to live in the light of God’s kingdom, and that moment changed Nicodemus. Since you met Jesus, how has God brought you from the darkness into the light?

  • Most Pharisees like Nicodemus did not believe God loved “the world”—only certain properly pious parts of it. Jesus’ message in John 3:16 was news to Nicodemus, not yet flashed around on end zone signs to read on TV. It was also not the “mic drop” end of the passage—Jesus went right on to lay out its big results in the following verses. How do verses 17 and 18 speak to (and maybe shift) the mental images you learned about how God looks at you?


Lord Jesus, give me more of your willingness to understand and connect even with people like Nicodemus, who might at first seem like “enemies.” Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

If you ask a Christian what Jesus was like, we all have a pretty clear picture of who he was and how his ministry worked. Some will focus on his intellect and how he dug into problems. Some will focus on his empathy and how he cared for those whom others rejected. Some will talk about how he boldly challenged authority when it had gone astray. Some will talk about how he creatively used religious and philosophical thought of the day to speak new truths. There are many different aspects of Jesus, and people see a lot of different sides of him.

It is interesting, though, that the Jesus we see often looks a lot like each of us. Intellectual people will see the intellectual Jesus, while emotional people will see the emotional Jesus. Bold people will see the bold Jesus, and creative people will see the creative Jesus. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s important to see a Christian model for traits like yours, and we’ll naturally be drawn to things we care about.

If we’re not careful, though, the Jesus we see can end up looking more like us than he actually was. We might see Jesus as a big fan of our politics or think that he would support people breaking the rules in ways that we do. The Jesus we see often likes the same people we do, and, if we’re not careful, we believe that Jesus hates the same people we do too. We would never use the word hate, of course, because that’s not very Christian, but we hold feelings toward certain groups of people that we know aren’t positive.

One thing I really admire about Nicodemus in today’s passage is that even though he was a well-respected religious scholar, he went out of his way to see the Jesus who didn’t act like him. Jesus and his teachings actively opposed how the Pharisees saw themselves and related to others. The Pharisees held a great deal of power over others and Jesus threatened to take that away. It would have been easy for Nicodemus to agree with all of his peers and hate Jesus, but he instead went out of his way to ask him questions and later became a supporter of him even after his death.

It’s easy to accept a Jesus who tells us we’re right, even when that’s not exactly what Jesus stood for; it’s much harder to accept a Jesus who tells us we’re wrong. And I don’t mean little things like watching our mouths or being nicer drivers. It could be that the foundational beliefs we hold are more our ideas than Jesus’s. Discovering this often means being like Nicodemus: going directly to the people who challenge us and asking them questions. It can mean trying to see the Jesus they see rather than just assuming the one we see is 100% accurate. It’s not often that a Pharisee in the Bible shows how we should be acting, but Nicodemus did something we should all aspire to do more of.

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.