Growing in faith - 17 September 2021

By Ben Fourie

he time between the book of Malachi and the New Testament is not recorded in the Bible, but it is written down in what is called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. Israel was ruled by the kingdom of Seleucia, with kings who held the religion of the Jews in contempt and desecrated the temple. King Antiochus Epiphanes went so far as to sacrifice a pig on the temple altar. Under the leadership of Judah Maccabeus, a priest, the Jews revolted and threw off the Seleucian yoke. In 140 BC, they founded the Hasmonic Empire ruled by priest-kings who ruled until 37 BC. During this time the Pharisees came forward as scribes and upholders of the religious laws. Since about 76 BC, the Pharisees enjoyed a majority in the Jewish Sanhedrin.

We should view Nicodemus against this backdrop. As a Pharisee, and most probably a member of the Sanhedrin, he was part of a group that had for more than 100 years been the guardians of the religious laws. Unfortunately, they became very rigid in their interpretation of the laws. For a Pharisee to become so interested in Jesus, it had to have meant that he was deeply impressed by the teachings of Jesus. In spite of this interest, he did not want his fellow Pharisees to know about it, so he came at night. During this visit, Jesus explained his teachings to Nicodemus. After Nicodemus left, not much is said about him for some time.

The next time we hear about him is in John 7:50 when we see that he is not afraid to be counted as a follower of Jesus, even to the point of defending Jesus in the Sanhedrin. Our last encounter with Nicodemus is in John 19:39, where he is shown to be a dedicated follower of Jesus when he brought a large amount of myrrh and aloes for the preparing of Jesus’ body for burial.

Since his first visit, we see Nicodemus growing in faith. He finally understood what Jesus had meant when he told him that he had to be born again.

Prayer: LORD, we pray that you will help us to grow closer to you every day. Amen