Nicodemus is at the heart of today’s Gospel account. He appears three times in the Gospel of John and is a noteworthy character. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jewish people.
We first encounter Nicodemus in today’s passage. He was impressed by Jesus’ teaching and the deeds that he was performing. It was clear to him that it was God who was working in and through Jesus. So he came to Jesus, but it is important to note that he did this under the cover of darkness, which suggests to us that he did not want to be seen.
By the time Nicodemus makes his second appearance in John’s Gospel, opposition against Jesus has hardened. The Pharisees were ready to do all that they could to have Jesus put to death. They were set against even giving Jesus a fair shake through a trial. It was Nicodemus who intervened on Jesus’ behalf, saying that Jesus should at least be given a fair hearing as the law demands. This was a more public involvement with Jesus on the part of Nicodemus. The third and final time Nicodemus appears is at the burial of Jesus. He was the one who provided a large quantity of expensive spices to be used in preparing Jesus’ body for entombment.
What are we to understand about Nicodemus from these three appearances? The first appearance shows that he was open-minded and was sincere in his desire to know the truth. The second appearance shows that he was a fair minded person by his insistence that Jesus be given a fair trial. And the third appearance shows that he was a man of wealth, but also a very generous and compassionate person.
All of these qualities we can certainly admire and are worthy of emulation. But what Nicodemus seems to have been unable to do was come straight out and make a full and public profession of faith in Jesus. He lacked the courage to come completely out of the darkness and make a decisive choice to live in the light. We are left with the image of a decent man who could have been a great man. Nicodemus is one of those lukewarm persons who is neither a great saint nor a great sinner.
When we reflect on Nicodemus we should be challenged to come out from the shadows, and not be afraid or ashamed to profess openly our faith in Jesus Christ, and be ready to pay whatever price is required for doing so.
Those who believe will not be lost, but will inherit eternal life. However, it is not simply a matter of believing, but of living according to that belief.
May this Season of Lent find all of us growing stronger in our faith. May we be faithful in bearing witness to the Lord Jesus in word and in deed.
– Fr. Dennis, March 11, 2018