3 Lessons from Nicodemus on Seeking Truth in Faith

Will you remain in the presence of our Lord despite the questions you may have? Will you dare to believe that, at some point, he will provide the answer?

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 07, 2024
3 Lessons from Nicodemus on Seeking Truth in Faith

"Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night." -  John 3:1-2

I have a 17-year-old son who loves to play chess. He spends his time studying strategies and lines of attack, analyzing past games, and learning from his blunders. Occasionally, he wants to involve me in his games. Because I’m not a chess player, I ask a lot of questions. These questions show my involvement and my desire to journey with my son.

I have a wife of 22 years. She loves baking and gardening, two activities I avoid very much. Occasionally, she wants to involve me in what she is doing, inviting me to join her. I take up her invitation, and as we progress through the activity, I ask a lot of questions. These questions show my involvement and my desire to connect with my wife.

We have a Saviour who is beyond us. While we are finite, he is infinite; we are flawed. He is perfect. But in an act of audacious grace, he invites us to journey with him. He offers us unbounded love and ceaseless grace. And in this life with Jesus, we are invited to ask questions. These questions show our desire to grow closer to the one who has called us to himself.

Sadly, many people believe that questions somehow betray our faith. I had a parishioner who once told me she was raised to believe that faith questions were a sin and that she needed to accept her faith blindly. But this goes directly against the witness of scripture. Scripture is filled with questions. In fact, it is often a question that leads someone closer to Jesus.

This was Nicodemus’ journey. Nicodemus is a wonderful illustration of how coming to Jesus with our questions opens deeper intimacy and connection for us. Nicodemus didn’t shy away from his wrestling. Thus, when it comes to tackling the questions of our faith, there are three important lessons we can learn from Nicodemus.

Lesson 1: Ask Questions.

The story of Nicodemus is well known because of its association with John 3:16. Martin Luther once called John 3:16 “the gospel in miniature.” Because of this, we often rush ahead to this verse, skipping over the important drama that precedes it. 

As the chapter opens, we see Nicodemus, a member of the Pharisees and a ruler of Israel, come to Jesus at night. The implication is clear: Nicodemus comes secretly, away from prying eyes. Deep within him, there is a question about his eternal life and his eternal soul. Nicodemus comes to Jesus because he has an inkling that the answer to his internal longings may be found in his presence. Of course, this would not be a popular opinion among the Pharisees of that time. Jesus, of course, was a man the Pharisees vehemently rejected. But still, Nicodemus, filled with questions, came to Jesus. 

Importantly, Jesus doesn’t criticize Nicodemus for his question. Jesus doesn’t lambast the questioning Pharisee or suggest that he must free himself of all questions and doubt. No, Jesus enters a spiritually rich conversation with the seeking Pharisee. Even when Nicodemus keeps his question unvoiced, Jesus speaks to the matter lying in his heart, 

“No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born from above.” - John 3:3

In doing so, Jesus invites Nicodemus to journey closer in faith. Nicodemus shows us that it is ok to have questions about our faith. Questions are not a denial of our relationship with our Lord. They do not betray our faith. In fact, like Nicodemus being drawn to seek out Jesus at night, it may just be that the Spirit uses our questions to bring us closer to the Lord. And like Nicodemus, Jesus will never discard us because we wish to know his truth more deeply.

Lesson 2: Embrace Confusion as a Guide.

Nicodemus shows us that it is ok for us to hold our questions before the Lord, whatever they are. But he also shows us that it is ok not to understand Christ’s answers immediately. Upon Jesus’ declaration that we must be born from above, Nicodemus responds, “How can this be?” “How can someone enter into the womb again?” (John 3:4) In blunt honesty, Nicodemus says essentially, “I don’t get it; I don’t understand.”  Nicodemus stands confused before the Lord. But again, Christ is gracious and accepting.

If we believe that it is a sin to question our faith, then we may believe that Jesus provides instantaneous answers. But again, this is not what we see in the gospels. Nicodemus didn’t receive a download of spiritual knowledge when he heard Jesus’ voice. Nor did he experience a miraculous parting of the heavens through which he understood all the mysteries of eternity. Nicodemus continued to wrestle with his questions throughout his conversation with Jesus and potentially for years following. 

He is not the only one who does this, either. We see this with Zachariah, Mary, Peter, and the rest of the disciples. All these people have moments when they voice confusion over God's ways. But none of them are discarded or rejected from God’s kingdom or the Lord’s plan. 

It’s okay to be confused about the life of faith or the words of scripture. It’s okay not to understand all the inner workings of God. The fact is our questions cannot be answered in a single moment. Depending on the nature of our questions, we may hold them for quite some time. But this is the journey of faith. A growing faith will always encounter something stretching beyond our comfort or understanding.

Lesson 3: Stay Focused on Jesus.

Eventually, the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus moves seamlessly into other narratives. We don’t get a resolution to this conversation in scripture. Jesus speaks about the new birth, the will of the Spirit, and the Father’s eternal love. During this conversation with the seeking Nicodemus, Jesus affirms that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son that who so ever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16).

Was this the answer that stuck in Nicodemus’ head and heart? Was this the answer that lodged deep in his soul as the final resolution to all his wrestling? 

We don’t know how long Nicodemus sat with his questions or how long he quietly turned over Christ’s statements in his heart. But at some point, Nicodemus decided that Jesus himself was the answer. John’s gospel records that when Joseph of Arimathea brought Jesus down from the cross, “Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds” (John 19:39). Somewhere along his journey, Nicodemus concluded that he needed to be with Jesus. Despite being a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jewish councils, Nicodemus knew that he needed to follow Jesus to the cross and the tomb. His questions led him to Jesus and, in doing so, led him to the resurrection. 

Will you remain in the presence of our Lord despite the questions you may have? Will you dare to believe that, at some point, he will provide the answer?

Photo Credit:  Image created using DALL.E 2024  AI technology and subsequently edited and reviewed by our editorial team.

SWN authorThe Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada.  He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at Christianity.com, crosswalk.comibelieve.com, Renovare Canada, and many others.  He also maintains his own blog revkylenorman.ca.  He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.

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