The next entry shared by Elder Bednar is found in John 1:1-13 where Christ meets with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. What is interesting is that this time the one is not a future Apostle but a man from a group that reviled the Saviour.
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
In this instance, the one came to be ministered unto. What is interesting here is that Nicodemus does not actually ask a question or state his desires. He approaches the Saviour but does not say what his question is. Does this mean he doesn’t know what his query is? Maybe he did know but he didn’t want to say? Or perhaps he was going to but he did not have the chance? Whatever the reason is, Christ speaks to him next…
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Christ spoke to this one and addressed his concerns. As we minister to the one we need to know them as the Saviour knows His Father’s children. Of course we will not be able to reach this level of knowing those whom we minister to in this life but we can aim to try and know them well. As we do this, the Spirit will be able to support us to know what it may be that they need, as the Saviour knew with Nicodemus.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
What is interesting about the Saviour’s response here is that he listens to Nicodemus’s question and tries to answer it in a way where Nicodemus has to listen to the Spirit to be taught the answer. One thing that I am often suspect to is solving everyone’s problems. If I meet with someone and they have a concern, I feel like I want to solve it with them. However, once again, the Saviour’s way of ministering to the one is insightful. What is sometimes required is for us to enable to one being ministered to search the answer for themselves. We talk of self-reliance and this applies to spiritual matters and concerns as well as physical trials to overcome. The Saviour is leading Nicodemus to search the answer for himself.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
At this stage in the ministering to Nicodemus, it is clear that he is still not understanding the Master’s guiding questions. We can draw presumptions from the context – perhaps Nicodemus is struggling to follow the guidance from the Saviour as he (along with most of the leading members of the Jewish religion at the time) are more focused on letter of the law than the Spirit and is therefore not able to comprehend the Saviour’s meaning. There could be other reasons. However, the Saviour knows our Father’s children and he provides the response that He knows Nicodemus will best respond to.
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Here the Saviour seems to reprimand Nicodemus about his apparent lack of understanding. To some this may seem like a harsh response. However, there is an important principle to learn again about ministering to the one. It is important that we get to know those we minister to so that we know what they best respond to. Once we do this we can truly minister effectively to the one and assist our Heavenly Father in His work.
The question may arise: how do we know that this answer was appropriate for Nicodemus? How do we know that he didn’t leave this experience bitter and became part of the large amount of religious leaders intent on causing the downfall of this self-proclaimed Saviour? The answer is that we find him in two later events of the same Gospel.
In John 7:50-52 we find him defending Jesus when others are discussing their opinions of Him:
50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)
51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?
52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
He clearly has been affected by this one-to-one experience with our Redeemer. He is trying to talk for the Lord amongst others of the Pharisees who would have him removed. Remember, this Nicodemus was a man of the Pharisees so he must have been impressed by the Saviour to at least defend him. However, does this mean that he was convinced of the Saviour’s divine mission? We read of more in John 19:38-40:
38 ¶ And after this Joseph of Arimathæa, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Nicodemus – a man of the Pharisees – was not only defending the Saviour but after His death, he was part of a group that secretly sought to take the crucified Lord’s body and give Him a custom burial of His people when others of their culture would not allow it. Not only this, he provided the means for this to happen with expensive spices (one of the same gifts that were brought at the time of his birth by wise men who heralded his birth as a foretold King – a coincidence?). Clearly the Saviour had ministered to this one the way that had the biggest impact. We can learn a lot from the Saviour and his personalised ministering to Nicodemus – to this one.