John 3, 14-21 4th Sunday of Lent
After Jesus cleanses the temple and says prophetically he himself is its replacement, Nicodemus comes to see him by night. He’s a Pharisee, an important person in Jerusalem, probably connected with the temple worship, and no doubt worried what people would think if they saw him with Jesus by day. In fact, other Jewish leaders in the city were thinking of putting him to death.
But despite coming to Jesus in the darkness, Nicodemus is not a slave of the dark. He’s looking for light. Maybe he’s not the bravest person in the world, but he’s an honest questioner, searching for the truth. Jesus does not point out to him his miracles, his healings, the crowds he draws, to establish his credentials. It’s not success stories he tells Nicodemus. It’s a story of a tragedy turned into victory.
Nicodemus would have recognized the story Jesus tells–a story from the epic desert journey of the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land when they fell into unbelief and doubt and were bitten by snakes causing many of them to die.
Then, a serpent was lifted up on a staff, and they were healed at the sight. It will not be Jesus’ successes that bring Nicodemus to believe in him. He would soon see Jesus lifted up on a cross and, by God’s grace, he came to believe. God’s mercy and love were there before him, healing all who needed forgiveness.
The Pharisee, a leader in Israel, doesn’t hide in the dark any more; along with Joseph of Arimithea, another Jewish official drawn to Jesus, Nicodemus boldly goes to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body and they bury it in a tomb nearby. The mystery of the Cross brought Nicodemus to believe.
We go to you through questions, Lord, sometimes with our doubts. Like Nicodemus we often go to you in the night, but you do not mind receiving us then. For with you “the night itself is like the day.”
As long as we do not love the darkness, you listen and reach out. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but might have eternal life.”
Teach us wisdom through your cross.