Our passage from John’s Gospels this week is a familiar one; we all know “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” But this passage is at the very center of St. John’s theme of Light and darkness, which defines this Gospel. Without this story of how Nicodemus approaches Jesus, we wouldn’t see how our own lives are so often a part of this struggle.
Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, so he is not seen talking with Him. This seems just the opposite of what we are called to do, but it is because of who Nicodemus is, and what he is trying to do. Because Nicodemus is a Pharisee, he is afraid to be seen with Jesus, but he knows (and says) that Jesus is no enemy, but has been sent by God. Jesus tells him that this knowledge has come from God, and then eventually explains something that we all must hear from time to time:
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
Because this whole interaction happens when Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, under cover of darkness, this must have hit home for him. He knew that what he was doing wasn’t wicked or shameful, yet he was trying to hide what he was doing, even though he knew it was right. But why is it that he thinks this must be hidden?
All of us have things that are so very personal, we choose to keep them private. And there are some things which we actually keep secret, because we truly don’t want anyone else to know we have done it. There is an important difference between them: the first category isn’t anything wrong, but it is private; the second is something which we hide because it would change what others think of us.
Nicodemus was concerned that others might find out, and that he would be seen as a traitor to the Pharisees. There was nothing wrong with what He was doing, yet he still worried about his reputation, should his meeting with Jesus come to light. Nicodemus felt like what he was doing was wrong, even though it wasn’t. His priorities got a bit confused, because he wanted to remain in good standing in his community. Jesus was telling him that there was nothing to hide, by pointing out that people hide the things they are ashamed of.
We have all done this in some way. We hide part of our life which should be shared with others. Sometimes we keep our faith too private, and don’t model God’s Love to the world. Sometimes, like Nicodemus, we want to fit in, so we check our faith at the door. We must all consider why we keep some things to ourselves. Sometimes we are right to keep it private, because that is where it belongs. Sometimes we are afraid of how it will make us look to others. But we must remember that God has given us some of those gifts precisely because we are meant to share them.