Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, in the darkness. You get a distinct sense from John, who is the only gospel writer who tells the story of the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, that this faith leader among the Jewish people comes in secret, and perhaps with trepidation.

He does not wish, at this moment, to be seen with Jesus, who, as we heard last Sunday, had begun his time in Jerusalem by clearing out the temple marketeers. For a faith leader to be associated with someone who had caused such considerable alarm would have been risky—to be condemned or shunned by association.

But there is something about Jesus—and his teaching—which Nicodemus cannot let go of. So he comes to him—in darkness, at night—seeking, well, we’re not entirely sure. Was he after an explanation? Did he want to challenge the actions of Jesus? You know that feeling you sometimes get when hearing of the way and words of Jesus—the feeling of being confronted and challenged, yet deeply moved towards the truthfulness of it? Well, I think that is what was going on with Nicodemus as he came to Jesus that night.

We heard the words of Jesus in response. They were no less confronting than his words in the temple about the sanctuary of his Body being destroyed but then raised on the third day. God, out of the greatest love, sent his Son into our world, in all its dark realities, so that salvation might come to us. He was the light that the world needs. Now, Nicodemus, come into the light.

We know that Nicodemus did come into the light of Christ. Strikingly, it was at his death, and before the resurrection. Along with Joseph of Arimathea, it was Nicodemus who brought the broken Body of Jesus from the cross and placed it in the tomb. At the world’s darkest moment—at the death of God’s beloved son—Nicodemus stepped into the light.

We might associate the coming into the light of Christ by Nicodemus with the words of St Paul from the second reading today. Recall: he spoke of God’s love for us, in Christ, a love that was so full of mercy that it was our salvation. This love was a grace, the unmerited favour of God in choosing us. Nicodemus had come to know of that grace, God’s love for him, through witnessing the saving death of Jesus.

But it took him a few years to sense this grace in himself. Nicodemus came to Jesus, at night, at the beginning of his mission, and he stepped into the light at the end. I want to say that we can take comfort in this. Our steps into Christ’s light might be hesitant, cautious, slow. We can tentatively venture into the light, yet quite quickly scurry back into the dark. But God is patient and merciful and full of love for us. His grace is enough.

So, let us take comfort in Nicodemus, our forebear in faith. Let us have faith in God’s grace and choice of us. Christ is our light; we are invited to live in his light.

Banner image: Study for Nicodemus Visiting Jesus, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1899.