When Nicodemus came to Jesus to extend his hand of generous knowledge, he came in the night. Some suggest that John was underlining a key point: Nicodemus was in the dark about Jesus’ nature. Others suggest that he was afraid of the Pharisees and was hiding under cover of darkness.
Both interpretations work well, especially considering how John frequently uses light as an analogy for Jesus. Nicodemus was in the dark and Jesus was the light.
But what happened to Nicodemus? He gets the John 3:16 discourse and we aren’t told the end of the story. Yet.
Later in the book of John, we meet Nicodemus again. The Pharisees were in a froth because of Jesus’ words at the temple and wanted him arrested. They bemoaned those who believed. In 7:50, Nicodemus confronted the Pharisees about a point of law: our law doesn’t judge without a hearing, does it?
They accused him of ignorance. Ironically, their point was that the Messiah will not come from Galilee but their own lack of knowledge – that Jesus was born in Bethlehem – revealed their own ignorance.
And, for Nicodemus, hearing Jesus' version of knowledge allowed him to stand up to the Jewish authorities after Jesus’ death. He was the man who helped Joseph of Arimathea anoint and bury Jesus.
To touch a dead man would defile a Pharisee and to openly align himself with Jesus ended his alliance with the religious leaders. Nicodemus, who originally came to Jesus to make peace (dare I say “seek approval”?), made a stronger stand than did the disciples.
They feared the Romans and the Jewish leaders. Whom did Nicodemus fear? I’d suggest that he only feared failing Jesus. He stood in the face of human rejection. Why?
We’re told in John 2 that Jesus knew what is in a person. Immediately afterward, he sat down with Nicodemus to correct his knowledge. Did Nicodemus, through this encounter, come to understand what was in a person?
Jesus didn’t entrust himself to people and, in the end, neither did Nicodemus. They knew that people are proud, selfish, emotional, moody, arrogant.
It’s a lesson we ought to learn. Not only am I weak, but so are you. Should I work to earn your approval or should you speak words that please me? Should your criticism crush me? Should my standards control you?
Jesus did not fear people’s opinions. His approval and direction came from the Father and he knew what people were truly like. Nicodemus learned. How’s our knowledge doing?