A journey from darkness into light
Nicodemus is at the centre of today’s Gospel – John 3:14-21. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin – the supreme court of the Jews. He appears just three times in the four Gospels – all in John.
The first time Nicodemus appears is in John Chapter 3 when he visited Jesus. He had heard about the kind of things Jesus was saying and doing, and was impressed. To him it was clear that the hand of God was in them. So he wanted to meet him.
He came to see Jesus under the cover of darkness, which suggests that he didn’t want to be seen. Given the fact that he was a Pharisee, it was a wonder he came at all. Jesus honoured him with a long interview.
By the time Nicodemus puts in his second appearance, opposition to Jesus had hardened. The Pharisees had made up made up their minds to kill him, and were ready to do so without even giving him a trial. But Nicodemus intervened, declaring that Jesus should at least be given a fair hearing as the law demanded. This was a more public involvement with Jesus.
The third time Nicodemus appears is on Good Friday evening. He assisted at the burial of Jesus. He provided a large quantity of expensive spices for his burial. After that we hear no more about him.
What can we deduce about Nicodemus from these three brief appearances?
The first appearance shows that he was an open-minded man, and a genuine seeker of truth. The second appearance shows that he was a fair-minded man, insisting that Jesus should not be condemned without a trial. The third appearance shows that he was a wealthy man, but also a generous and compassionate man.
We see a growth in his relationship with Jesus. He begins by showing an interest, and wanting to know about him. He goes on to defend him in public. And by assisting at his burial he is seen to associate with him at his hour of shame and humiliation.
We are not told if Nicodemus became a disciple of Jesus. But it’s clear that he was moving in the right direction. John portrays him as progressively leaving the darkness and coming into the light.
It was God who set the process of salvation in motion. Jesus came into the world as a light, not to judge but to save the world – ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ (3:16)
Excerpt from ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’ Year B, Flor McCarthy SDB, Dominican Publications.