“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night…” John 3:1-2
When we first meet Nicodemus in the gospel of John, we find him coming to talk to Jesus at night. He is drawn to him but isn’t ready to make that fact be known. Plus he had questions he wanted answers to. So he came to Jesus in the dark — hidden, afraid, perhaps embarrassed or ashamed. He wanted to keep his meeting with Jesus out of the public eye, secret from any of his peers or fellow Pharisees.
But when we last see Nicodemus in Scripture, he is accompanying Joseph of Arimethea in a bold move. These two men were kindred spirits: “Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders.” (John 19: 38). And yet both of these men went to ask Pontius Pilate to release the corpse of Jesus to them so that they could give him a fitting burial. That took a lot of guts and courage. Nicodemus even took with him about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. A cargo that large could not be hidden from people’s view. But that’s how far Nicodemus had come. He had been transformed and changed by his interactions with Jesus.
What can we learn from Nicodemus?
Jesus met with Nicodemus on Nicodemus’s terms and was happy to talk to him at night. Thus began the gradual freeing from fear and bondage that took place in Nicodemus’s soul. And Jesus wants to meet us where we are at — no matter how entrenched in darkness we are, no matter how much we want to remain hidden from view.
We, too, can come to the Lord “at night”:
- in any state of darkness we happen to be in
- with accumulated sin weighing us down
- with fears and worries drowning out our hope
- in anger, frustration, defeat
It is the enemy of our souls that fills us with fear that we are not worthy, not ready, or that we need to do X, Y, or Z before we can approach the Lord. Whereas Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who find life burdensome and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
Jesus knows full well that our sins weigh us down and keep us from being free and joyful, and he invites us to unburden ourselves. It’s okay that we come like Nicodemus did, in the cover of darkness. The Lord wants to meet us where we are at, and for us to unburden ourselves and open up more and more; to let him into every nook and cranny of our hearts, of our past, of our ways of viewing life, and the habits that we have picked up along the way; to let his gentle love penetrate every area and bring healing and freedom — because that’s what He came to do. “I came that you might have life, and have it to the full!” Jesus tells us in John 10:10.
So during these grace-filled days of Lent, let’s not fall into those lies that paralyze our movement forward to get closer to Jesus. We don’t have to be more holy or have our act together before we come. We can come to the Lord with all our fears, baggage, doubts, angst and inner woes.
And he comes to us, meeting us right there, right then.
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, buy grain and eat;
Come, buy grain without money,
wine and milk without cost!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what does not satisfy?
Only listen to me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.