The Devotion to Christ – Nicodemus’ turning point is a powerful moment

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By Brian Cook

In John 3:1-21, Nicodemus is called the “Teacher of Israel” by our Lord. He seems to be a true student as well, as Nicodemus could not resist asking questions and seeking answers.

In Luke 2:46-47, was he listening to Jesus in the Temple when our Lord was 12 years old? Nicodemus may have been a Pharisee, but he was a learner as well. He saw the signs Jesus per-formed, understood the Scriptures and knew that something very special was happening. Nicodemus just had to know for himself!

But was it only academic? Perhaps Nicodemus had come in pride to match wits with the new Teacher. Maybe he came to “teach Jesus a thing or two,” viewing Jesus’ followers as thick-headed and unlearned. Or perhaps Nicodemus had come to save his reputation in having invested his life in teaching “his” truth about God. Was Nicodemus hoping to make Jesus fit into the message that he had delivered his entire career?

But Jesus was looking for worshippers, and He knew He had to lead Nicodemus to the test in order to deliver him from his “mental assent only” kind of faith. Jesus had to save Nicodemus from his desire to be correct and rescue him from the intellectual pride that may very well damn him.

Nicodemus had staked his eternity on learning and teaching an incomplete and incorrect truth. His castle was built on sand, and Jesus was about to heal him by knocking down that castle like a crashing wave. Jesus loved Nicodemus, for “God so loved the world,” and that love demanded Nicodemus to give up his god as much as it demanded God the Father to offer up His Son.

So, Jesus says to Nicodemus something that He is never recorded in Scripture as saying to another person: “You must be born again”

Jesus tells Nicodemus that it is time to start completely over – to set aside his life’s work, become like an infant and start the learning process all over again. This cuts Nicodemus to the very core. It must have been the most offensive and unacceptable thought imaginable! Jesus demanded Nicodemus’ god – his intellectual pride – and demanded that Nicodemus become the student, the child, and humble as a babe. It is time for “The Teacher of Israel” to be taught and to be saved.

We see the war that starts to rage within Nicodemus when he asks, “How can these things be?” This emotion captures that moment of so many non-Christian religious people when they realize that Jesus is the only way to salvation:

* When Jews realize they missed their Messiah or when Muslims realize that since Jesus and Mohammed oppose each other in everything they teach, you cannot claim Jesus and Mohammed together as prophets.

* When Buddhists realize that Buddha said, “look to my teaching,” but Jesus said, “come to Me.”

* When Protestants (like I was) realize that Jesus left us an Apostolic Church, not a Book, and by the Holy Spirit that Church gave us the Bible.

* When Baptists (like me) realize that Jesus is not speaking symbolically in John Chapter 6.

* When we all realize that Jesus commands that we “do faith” His way and that we do not get to recreate Christianity or “do church” in ways that satisfy our flesh.

Nicodemus watches his castle crumble before his intellectual eyes. But Jesus lovingly gives Nicodemus a simple sign to look for: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” That statement is followed by the most well-known verse in all of Scripture in John 3:16. Yes, Jesus called for Nicodemus’ mind, and to Nicodemus, that was his life. Right then and there “The Turning” begins, which is Nicodemus’ turning toward loving the Lord his God with all of his mind.

We can assume Nicodemus passes the test, for in the end, seeing the sign spoken to him by Jesus, our Lord was buried by the hands of our brother Nicodemus working alongside Joseph of Arimathea. The student buries his teacher, the disciple buries his master and the formerly self-righteous buries his righteous God. His mind now faces another excruciating impossibility – can man end the life of God? Just imagine his joy on the third day!

Brian Cook is a Cropwell native and a graduate of Pell City High School, Gadsden State Community College and studied music and history at Jacksonville State. He and his wife Hope have five children. A self-described “on-again-off-again bi-vocational part-time” Protestant minister for almost 20 years, Brian converted to Catholicism in April 2021. They attend Saint James Catholic Church in Gadsden. With no formal training (Acts 4:13), Brian active in the Catechetical training of children and adults. His book “The Devotion to Christ” can be found on Amazon. He is available for speaking and teaching engagements in any parish, church, or group setting. He may be contacted at thedtc@protonmail.com or thedevotiontochrist@gmail.com.

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