Most people I know, including small children, can readily quote John 3:16. We see it and hear it everywhere. No NFL game is complete without the cameras panning the crowd for at least one placard showing it. And no wonder we see John 3:16 everywhere. This ubiquitous, well-known Bible verse succinctly embodies the basic doctrine of salvation through Christ.
I wonder though, can you tell me with whom Jesus was speaking when He said these well-known words? Be honest; don’t look it up. Can you tell me?
If not, don’t feel bad. Many people forget that Jesus was conversing with a Pharisee, a prestigious member of the Sanhedrin ruling council. Yes, Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus and explaining to this respected and powerful man the way to be born again.
It’s kind of funny when you think about it. Here was this son of a carpenter telling one of the most prestigious of men how to be reborn. And even more interesting, they had this strange conversation in the dead of night so that no one else of importance would see them talking. Evidently, Nicodemus was very interested in the words of Jesus, but we cannot determine for sure whether he was born again. But Chapter 19 of John does tell us a bit more, though nothing for certain.
As the crucifixion ended and the burial story of Jesus unfolded, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus showed up. What an interesting pair. Both men were rich and powerful, and both men evidently cared enough to undertake the task of burying Jesus. Yet, neither man had cared enough to publicly support Jesus or His ministry up until this point.
According to Scripture, Joseph had been a secret believer before this point, afraid to let his association with Jesus be known during that turbulent time. And Nicodemus, according to John’s account, might have been a secret believer as well. He definitely interjected some levity into Sanhedrin discussion against Jesus. Or both men might have been the ones described in the Bible as valuing the acceptance and praise of men over that of God.
Either way, this burial act was a bold political move for Nicodemus and Joseph, and an even bolder spiritual move. They had nothing to gain at this point from an open alliance with a dead Jesus—and they still had everything to lose.
Strangely, just when it seemed like all hope was lost, and when both men would have been better served to put their affiliation with Jesus behind them, Joseph chose instead to directly ask Pilate for the body of Jesus, provide perhaps his own family tomb, and take personal care of the body of this crucified man. And Nicodemus brought the costly oils, 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes to be exact, needed to embalm the body.
Both men made a huge investment in a condemned man who was dead and gone. Did they understand it was not over, or were they simply riddled with regret and remorse? Of course, they actually fulfilled Scriptures with their actions, but why?
Why did they do what they did?
Whatever their reasons, Joseph and Nicodemus lovingly risked it all in order to care for the body of a man, the John 3:16 man, who had given His very life for them—and for us. Just think. It would have been so much easier to let Jesus’ body be delegated to a pauper’s pit.
Instead, with nothing to gain at this point, and their very lives and reputations to lose, this rich, powerful duo made a stand. And in doing so, they took their place in biblical history as loving caretakers of the Messiah’s body. And they gave notice to the world of their love for the Messiah.
Now, remember, they had no idea that because of their bravery and love they were becoming part of a historic plan. In fact, they probably had no clue at all, but they were smack dab in the middle of the greatest plan God ever created—the plan of salvation. John 3:16 was about to be made manifest in their midst.
Nicodemus and Joseph were literally washing the body of Jesus, while Jesus was breaking down the gates of hell and taking back the keys to death, hell, and the grave.
So, the next time you hear or see John 3:16, think of Nicodemus and Joseph. Think of their part in the salvation plan of John 3:16, and think of your own part in that ongoing, eternal plan.
Truly think about what it really means to be born again. Are you fulfilling your part of that plan by sharing His offer of salvation with others? If not, find a way to share John 3:16 today.