Wondering Nicodemus

27 May 2018 – Holy Trinity

John 3:1-17

Nicodemus goes to visit Jesus at night because he does not want anybody to see him; he has a reputation to maintain. Good Pharisees do not approach Jesus on equal terms for a serious theological discussion. They only approach him during the day to lob tricky questions through the crowd in an attempt to trip him up. They don’t expect him to say anything useful, and don’t really want him to. They want to be the only ones that people turn to for useful and correct information about the faith. . .

I would go to visit Jesus at night because nighttime is vast and mysterious, sometimes ethereal, occasionally frightening. At night, we expect a certain amount of inscrutability, and so perhaps, we are more willing to accept the unknown without insisting on some tangible explanation. At night, we suspend judgment. We postpone decision. We are open to new possibilities.

I remember as a child the wonder and the thrill on those nights when my parents didn’t call us in at the expected time. . . We felt free to embrace the nighttime even though the darkness still evoked a kind of nagging fear in our preadolescent minds. As the games of hide-and-seek stretched on, though, a certain boldness began to emerge within us and we could have played forever, dancing around our fear by holding hands with the unknown. . .

Nicodemus is . . . playing out there in the darkness with words that have multiple meanings and concepts that elude comprehension. He’s made himself vulnerable on this night, coming to Jesus with his questions and admitting his confusion—another thing that we are more willing to do after dark. . . Where we normally feel timid and insecure, the night provides insulation against the judgments and opinions of others, allowing us to voice our deepest hopes and dreams, the ones that ultimately make us real. –– Jennifer Copeland

Isaiah 6:1-8

Isaiah locates himself among the lost and unclean, yet he is able to see the LORD of hosts. Where among the “least and lost” have we seen signs of the LORD’s presence? –– E. Byron Anderson

Romans 8:12-17

Jesus’ invitation to Nicodemus and Paul’s reminder to the church at Rome are invitations and reminders that our lives need not be what they have always been. To be born of water and the Spirit is to know that life as we knew it before baptism has ended, that our lives are now either “by the Spirit” or “against the Spirit.” The new life we live, we live in the knowledge that the Spirit is an active force shaping who we are and what we do. William Willimon. . . suggests that “it is not so much a question of whether we can say when this rebirth happens [or happened] to us, as it is a question of whether we can now say that we have begun, by faith, to live the life and death of Jesus Christ in our own lives” (Remember Who You Are –– Upper Room, 1980, p. 91). –– E. Byron Anderson

Jennifer Copeland, a United Methodist ordained minister, served for 16 years as chaplain at Duke University and as director of the Duke Wesley Fellowship. She is currently executive director at North Carolina Council of Churches in Raleigh-Durham.

Homily Service 42, no. 3 (2009): 17-26.

David Turnbloom