(nih cuh dee' muhss) Personal name meaning, “innocent of blood.” John identifies Nicodemus as a Pharisee, “a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1), that is, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, and as “a teacher of Israel” (John 3:10), that is, an authority on the interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures. Nicodemus' coming at night suggests his timidity and his trek from the darkness of his own sin and ignorance to the light of Jesus (John 3:2). Nicodemus greeted Jesus with a title of respect, “Rabbi” (teacher), recognizing Him as a God-sent teacher whose signs bore witness to the presence of God (John 3:2). Jesus replied that Nicodemus could never see the kingdom of God without being “born again” (John 3:3) or “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5). Nicodemus could only marvel at the impossibility of such a thing (John 3:4,John 3:9), but the text does not indicate whether Jesus was finally able to make it clear to him.
True to his name, Nicodemus defended Christ before his peers (John 7:51) who were unaware that one of their number might have believed in Him (John 7:48). Their response is a twofold rebuke which may be paraphrased “Are you a Galilean peasant?” and “Are you ignorant of the Scriptures?” (John 7:52).
The reference to Nicodemus' initial coming at night highlights his later public participation in Jesus' burial (John 19:39-41). Nicodemus' contribution was enough aloes and spices to prepare a king for burial, and so he did. On one level, the burial was a simple act of Pharisaic piety (compare
Tobit 1:17). On a deeper level, it recognized that in His suffering and death, Christ fulfilled His role as King of the Jews.