As our journey towards Our Lord’s Passion gets ever closer, we meet some important figures. One such important figure that we encounter is Nicodemus; and despite his brief and somewhat fleeting appearances, has a lot to contribute in this latter stage of Lent.
We meet him, and have him named, three times in the Gospel of John. The first time we meet him, in John 3, he comes to Jesus ‘by night’. This is interesting, as we see here, in Nicodemus, one of those major themes that appears – darkness. The fact that he was a leading Jew – part of the Sanhedrin – possibly had a part to play in meeting Jesus ‘by night’. This encounter, in the nighttime, also reveals something of the dynamic of his faith, and his own faith journey. He is very much in the darkness.
Yet, despite this, there is intrigue. There is something within him that encourages him to open dialogue with Jesus; to begin a conversation. This power of this dialogue cannot be underestimated.
Despite his encounter with Jesus, the intrigue that prompts such questions, he cannot, for whatever reason, make that journey from darkness into the light. We see within him a hesitation; we see within him a limitation to hand himself over.
The next time that we encounter Nicodemus is in today’s Gospel – John 7 – after some time lapse. He meets Jesus again, this time in his context as a member of the Sanhedrin. His limited faith, as we experienced it before, has changed, and matured. In today’s Gospel he makes quite a bold and courageous interruption to proceedings: requesting that Jesus deserves a fair trial.
Lastly, we see him at the foot of the cross, at the moment of Jesus’ death. He, along with Joseph of Aramathea, are the ones who wraps Our Lord in a shroud and place him in the tomb. Nicodemus – this mystery man, with an inability to commit himself, now finds himself at the foot of the cross; in a place where not even most of his disciples could be.
Nicodemus is a witness to us of the patience that we need in other people and their own journeys of faith, whether it be family members or friends. The fact that there may only be a partial faith, or includes a lack of understanding, or an inability to articulate aspects of the faith, doesn’t mean that there is nothing bubbling under the surface. Nicodemus was lead from the darkness to the foot of the cross. Let us pray for patience in ourselves, that the gift of faith may be allowed to blossom, and that the people that we know may return to the loving embrace of Almighty God.