Christian Growth

Jesus, Master Teacher—The Case of Nicodemus

What do you see when you observe Jesus, the teacher? Consider His interactions with Nicodemus (John 3:1-12).

First, Jesus took time for individual students and personalized instruction, and he was accessible and available to students. This student came to see Him outside of office hours (2).

The visit at night also highlights Jesus’s sensitivity to the student’s needs—in this case, a need for privacy and safety. Nicodemus was afraid to look foolish in front of others. Jesus was also perceptive of the student’s deep needs—to know God personally, to experience transformation, and to obtain eternal life.

Next, Jesus caught Nicodemus’s attention. He presented Nicodemus with an anomaly—the puzzling statement that he must be “born again” (3). It was a startling idea that awakened curiosity.

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Throughout the interchange, Christ utilized various effective instructional strategies:

  • Analogy. Jesus compared conversion to birth (6-7) and the Holy Spirit to the wind (8).
  • Connection to prior learning. Jesus referenced Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness (14).
  • Comparison and contrast. Jesus differentiated light and darkness (19-21), condemnation and salvation (17).
  • Transition. Jesus transitioned from the known to the unknown, from concrete to abstract, and from the physical to the spiritual (2-3, 6, 8, 12).

Jesus gave the student His undivided attention, built on foundational knowledge, and guided the student to think, reflect, and discover. He referenced relevant Scriptures. He explained and clarified, accepting the student and then calling him to something better.

Jesus didn’t only seek a cognitive response. He also delved into the affective domain—addressing love and justice, being and believing. The focus, in fact, was on God’s love (16). The purpose was for the student to experience salvation and eternal life.

Then Nicodemus abruptly vanished into the shadows. It seemed that perhaps nothing had changed. But the story was not over. When the temple guards sent to arrest Jesus returned empty-handed, reporting, “No one ever spoke the way this man does” the Pharisees retorted, “You mean he has deceived you also?” Then Nicodemus, who was also a Pharisee, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” (John 7:45-52, NIV). Nicodemus, so worried about his reputation that he had come at night, now stood up boldly for Jesus among his peers.

Nicodemus’s final appearance happened at the darkest moment. Many of Christ’s believers were cowering in fear, trying to hide. But when Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to request the body of Jesus, “He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night…. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen” (John 19:38-40). At the most difficult time to be identified as a follower of Jesus, Nicodemus came forward and declared before the world that he was a believer.

Nicodemus met Jesus, the Teacher, and he was changed.

John Wesley Taylor

John Wesley Taylor

John Wesley Taylor V, PhD, is Associate Director of Education at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He has served as teacher and educational administrator in North American, Latin America, and Asia, and in elementary, secondary, and higher education settings. He is a friend of young people and a colleague of teachers.
John Wesley Taylor

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