The most unlikely persons
‘There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 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.’ John 3:1–2
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Joshua 2:1–24
Who Nicodemus was: by profession a Pharisee, in rank a ruler, and, it was probable from John 7:50, a member of their chief council—that council which afterwards condemned him to death. The Pharisees were our Lord’s professed and implacable enemies upon all occasions, and the rulers and rich men, if they did not directly join with them in seeking his destruction (which many did), yet in general thought him beneath their notice. The publicans and sinners, the poor and the miserable, flocked about him, but as to the rest, they were either so careless or so obstinate, that his enemies could boldly say, Have any of the Pharisees and rulers believed on him? [John 7:48]. This was therefore a singular case. We may observe from it that the grace of God can, and often does, triumph over the greatest difficulties and show itself sovereign in calling the most unlikely persons. Who would have thought of an Obadiah in the court of the wicked? A Rahab? Or an enquirer after Jesus among the Pharisees and rulers? The Lord draws some in every situation and character of life. He can break through the greatest prejudices and the strongest temptations, can soften the heart of a proud Pharisee, and make a rich man poor in spirit. It is true not many of these are called, but some there are, and we know not who will be the next. It should therefore give us encouragement and teach us patience concerning those who as yet sit in darkness. We are apt to condemn by the lump, and give up whole bodies of men as desperate, but those we have little hopes of may ere long outstrip us in the Christian profession.
FOR MEDITATION: Though he does not see things clearly I have reason to hope the Lord has begun a good work in his heart [9 May 1776]. O my Lord, I thank thee for thy goodness to him; I think he goes forward into the light of thy truth [2 September 1777]. I think I can see he has got before me already. Lord, if I have been useful to him, do thou, I beseech thee, make him now useful to me [11 December 1778].
Diary, Newton’s prayers for the Rev. Thomas Scott
SERMON SERIES: JOHN 3:1–2, NO. 1 [3/7]