2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Ashamed to come to Jesus in the daytime, Nicodemus came to Him at night. He was afraid of what other members of the Sanhedrin would think of him.
2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him,
Nicodemus was a prominent figure in Israel. He was an unbeliever, but he had secret questions of Jesus. That is why he came by cover of the night. He feared public association with Jesus, but he suppressed that fear in order to deal with his superficial belief. All three times he is mentioned in this gospel he came “by night.” His doubt was in an uneasy state.
“Rabbi” means teacher. This was a polite term of respect even though Jesus did not receive rabbinic training (Jn 7:15). Nicodemus put himself in the role of a learner. In spite of his prominent place in religion, he had a need. He was like another Pharisee called Paul (Php 3:4-8).
The “we” might indicate that there were other members of the Sanhedrin who believed that Jesus’ authority came from God. Nicodemus represented that group to Jesus.
that You are a teacher come from God;
Evidently the group that Nicodemus represented believed that God sent Jesus to earth. They evidently accepted that this obscure Galilean had been singled out by God to send a message to Israel. Nicodemus was merely expressing positive volition toward Christ here; he was not a believer as yet. All he knew was the “signs” that indicated something unusual about Christ; there were many teachers from Moses to Isaiah, and maybe Jesus was one of them.
Nicodemus and his colleagues probably came to the conclusion that Jesus acted and spoke publicly the true will of God for the cleansing of the temple. He had not yet come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, as God who became flesh.
for no one can
The Greek word for “can” occurs five times between 3:2 and 3:9. This word (dunamai) carries the ideas of to be able or to have power. Nicodemus looked at Jesus as someone who had authority. He was in a process of trying to understand the nature of Jesus’ authority; he had not arrived yet at a final understanding of who He was at this point.
It is possible to believe that Jesus was a good man and teacher and still go to hell.
Trusting in signs without believing in the object of signs does not make a Christian. Believing in Jesus’ signs does not lead to eternal life. If we believe that Jesus was a great teacher, what does that do? The issue is this: Do we believe in what He taught?
It takes humility to find truth. If we think that we know it all, then we limit ourselves to our biases. Are we willing to concede to what we do not know? Are we willing to see our great spiritual need?