Today’s gospel presents us with the conclusion of a meeting Nicodemus had with Jesus, in the midst of a dark night. Being a person of such a high and important status (both civil and religious), he was not supposed to mix with either such a rebel rabbi or any of his uneducated followers. But he needed to meet this Jesus. Something must have told him that Jesus could give him answers for some of his questions. He was searching, questioning, and that is always a mark of a wise person. Given the circumstances, he must have felt that it would have been safer to meet Jesus during the night. This night-time meeting takes on another meaning, when we remember that it is written by St John. John is a master of symbolism., with which his gospel is peppered. Here we have someone who is in darkness coming to meet Jesus, who is the light of the world. There’s nothing better than going straight to the source!
In today’s gospel passage Jesus helps Nicodemus and, through him, each and everyone of us, to better understand who God is. Like each one of us, Nicodemus must have had his own ideas about God. Having had his formation and upbringing as a Pharisee, he must have believed in a God who is always ready to judge and condemn. His idea of religion would have been that of pure meritocracy: if you do good you are rewarded, if not you are punished.
Jesus Helps Nicodemus understand that God is Love. He loves so much that he sent his only Son to the world. And this son did not come to condemn or to judge, but only to save. The only ones who are not saved are those who choose not to accept Jesus and his message. As always, God respects our freedom. To further help Nicodemus understand this concept, Jesus recalls a passage of the old testament when Moses put a bronze serpent on a high pole in the desert so that whoever was bitten by the poisonous snakes could look at it and be healed.
At the end of this conversation the gospel returns to the symbolism of light and darkness. Jesus came to the world as light. Unfortunately, some people prefer to stay in the darkness, just as there could have been some people in the desert who chose not to look at Moses’ serpent. Here Jesus praises Nicodemus who chose to come and seek the light. He told him, “those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
As we move on in our Lenten journey, it would be a good idea to think about our own idea of who God is. Like Nicodemus, let us make sure to find some quiet, personal time with Jesus allowing him to get to know God better and bask in His loving arms.