Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees, an important leader and teacher in Israel. He came to Jesus in secret, at dead of night. Jesus was already suspected as a troublemaker, and it wouldn’t be wise for Nicodemus to be seen with him. And yet, Nicodemus could see that Jesus had come from God. He wanted to meet him and find out more – but not in public.
Jesus challenges Nicodemus. Why is he creeping around in the dark? The things that we do under cover of darkness are the things that we are ashamed of. The person who lives by the truth is not afraid to come out into the light and be seen.
Jesus himself was never afraid to be seen. We saw this in last Sunday’s Gospel, when he fearlessly drove the sellers and moneychangers out of the Temple. Jesus openly challenged the leaders of the people, cured the sick and welcomed sinners. It was almost inevitable that he would fall foul of the authorities, and in the end would die a shameful death on the Cross. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus foretells that those who believe in him will have eternal life through his sacrifice. God has sent his Son into the world to save us from our sins. Jesus will be lifted up on the Cross, not as a symbol of shame, but of hope. When the time came, Nicodemus would be there to help bury Jesus’ body. Through meeting Jesus, he had come to believe in him. Lent is the time for us to encounter Jesus again, and to renew our faith.