We see Nicodemus three times in the gospel of John. The first time we see him, Nicodemus, a rich man, comes to see Jesus at night to question Him. Why? Probably because he doesn’t want to be seen with Him.
He asks about salvation but is afraid to be seen with Jesus, afraid to be seen as one of His followers. He has all sorts of questions. He’s Christ curious for lack of a better term. He’s interested enough to come and ask but he doesn’t want to be seen with Jesus. He’s got too much to lose. He’s a man of stature and wealth.
How many people find themselves in that exact situation? You’ve been told of Jesus and maybe you have some belief in Him but you’re afraid of being seen as a Christian. You’re afraid of being seen as one of those nutty Christians. You have too much to lose. So you don’t post on Facebook about your religion. You shy away from defending life or truth for fear of being shouted down or fear of being looked down on.
We see Nicodemus again later. At this point, many people have heard of Jesus’ teachings and miracles. And this worries the Pharisees, the group Nicodemus belongs to. They’re talking about arresting Jesus. As the Pharisees speak negatively about Jesus, Nicodemus now stands up and defends Jesus. This is a big move and a far cry from the man who was skulking around asking questions just a short time earlier.
Nicodemus essentially asks them to not judge Jesus until they know more. He asks, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”
They replied, “Are you from Galilee too?
Notice they didn’t answer his question. They lob an accusation at him. They’re accusing him of being a rube. Someone from a small town. Is this sounding familiar? People in the elite cities looking down on those believers from small towns?
To be clear, Nicodemus didn’t make a full-throated defense of Jesus here. He simply asked a question. He is seeking for them to live up to their own stated ideals but as we know when it comes to Christ people act with irrational hate.
The third time we run into Nicodemus, things have changed a bit and it’s counter-intuitive. Jesus has been crucified. Nicodemus has every reason not to associate with Jesus now. But what does he do?
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds.x They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.
When things are at their worst, Nicodemus is there with Jesus, adorning His body with myrrh and burial cloths. He was finally unafraid to be seen as a disciple of Jesus.
Nicodemus’ journey is literally one from darkness to light. He is unafraid in the end. This gospel is so applicable right now. We live in an age where it’s not cool to be Christian. It’s looked down on.
And not everyone is a third stage Nicodemus. Others are on their journey. Don’t mock them. Don’t level accusations at them IN ALL CAPS!!! Help them along. People get enough accusations and allegations from the other side. We shouldn’t add to that.
Wherever we are or others are on the path of Nicodemus we should help one another along because…in the end we’re all on the same path.