I’ve been told that confession is good for the soul. I hope the following will suffice.
For years I judged someone quite unfairly. I was extremely harsh, too quick to draw conclusions, and most certainly owe him an apology.
I didn’t know him personally, mind you, but only read about the man. Please don’t think any less of me, but I reasoned that this was sufficient enough evidence to convict. To me, based solely upon written testimony, he proved himself beyond any reasonable doubt, guilty of being a clueless thick-headed simpleton.
Yes, I once believed this about Nicodemus.
We read about the man in John’s Gospel, the first time, in chapter three. Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews, a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin served as a court of law, which played a vital role in their society.
Nicodemus was also a seeker. He wanted to know more about Jesus, so he came to him by night. The reason for this remains unclear.
Perhaps he didn’t want to be seen by his esteemed colleagues? This is something I once believed. He also failed to understand Jesus and sounded terribly naive in the process. As such, he was very much “in the dark.”
Recently, however, I changed my mind about Nicodemus. The good news is that I now greatly admire him.
You see, the Sanhedrin had a number of rules. Among them, they were only to examine cases and pronounce rulings during daylight hours and not on the Sabbath or any festival. (Note: they broke both of these when dealing with Jesus.)
Now it so happens that Nicodemus’ nighttime meeting with Jesus occurred during the Passover festival. To me, symbolically, these two clues may indicate that he didn’t need to “make a decision for Jesus” on the spot.
We read about Nicodemus two more times. In John 7:50-51, he publicly defends Jesus, and in John 19:39–42, Nicodemus helps prepare Jesus’ body for burial.
Nicodemus hung in there and still followed Jesus, in spite of not having a perfect understanding of faith. This can be reassuring and comfort to us all.
After a reexamination of his case, I find Nicodemus innocent of any wrongdoing.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.