Nicodemus gets a bad rap. He’s criticized for coming to Jesus “by night.” But consider the references to him after today’s gospel. Courageously, he defends Jesus against his angry peers, asking whether their law judges a man who has not had a fair hearing (John 7:50-51). After the crucifixion, he helps embalm and bury Jesus’ body (19:39).
He is an honest seeker, who won’t settle for tried-and-true cliches. His colleagues quickly dismiss anyone with a different angle. Nicodemus, however, explores the new teaching carefully, which takes some time. He questions honestly, and Jesus doesn’t reject him. Instead, Jesus welcomes their discussion and reveals himself magnificently, as light coming into darkness.
Jesus even seems to tease Nicodemus as a teacher who doesn’t “get it” (v. 10). Nicodemus must be overwhelmed: he doesn’t respond.
Or maybe he answers through his life. After an avalanche of ideas, he sifts through them and applies them to daily events. Apparently Jesus’ teaching withstands that reality check; Nicodemus becomes an admirable follower, “his works done in God.”
Do we act like him, or do we stagnate in unexamined prejudices and stale beliefs? Are we open to the Spirit’s unsettling winds?