[He] came by night, because he feared to do so by day. Yet not for this did the merciful God reject or rebuke him, or deprive him of His instruction, but even with much kindness conversed with him and disclosed to him very exalted doctrines, enigmatically indeed, but nevertheless He disclosed them. — Chrysostom
John 3:2 — He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
John 9:4 — We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
John 11:10 — But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.
John 13:30 — So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
John 19:39 — Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.
John 21:3 — Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
John 1:5 — The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
John 3:19 — And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
John 6:17 — [They] got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
John 8:12 — Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
John 12:35 — Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.
John 12:46 - I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.
John 20:1 — Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb
It may be a bit of a crude exegetical tack but it occurs to me that perhaps the whole matter of “night” and “darkness” play a significant part in John, John chapter 3, and in life during Lent.
Nicodemus seems to have a habit to show up after dark. He does so here and will do so again at the burial of Jesus. Whatever connection or love for the Lord Nicodemus had can be up to debate. He was a sympathizer as his defense of Jesus in 7:51 attests. But does that matter?
Is this not the Lenten question? Are you a sympathizer of Jesus or are you committed to stand out? Yes, this is a subtle treatment of the subject of “darkness” that runs through the Gospel of John. Maybe, here, this is not so much a matter of loving the dark because of evil intent. Maybe it is a way of saying: I fear the evil and the light of the day exposes both evil and good and I am not ready for the fight that must follow the revelation that the light will bring. Nicodemus was not ready for the fight and it remains open if that ever changed.
All Nicodemus can do during the day is to uphold the best standards of the world: “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him?” (7:50) All Nicodemus can do in the end of his time in the Gospel of John is to bring spices at dusk to bury Jesus. Really, prior to the Holy Spirit being given (20:22) everyone else is in this situation, even Mary who shows up in the dark to mourn death’s victory, even the disciples who hide in the upper room at night, in fear.
In the end of the Gospel the disciples go out to fish at night but catch nothing. At dawn, when the light arose and, more importantly, when the Light that came into the world stood at their side, the fishing expedition takes a very fortunate — and symbolic — turn for the better. This episode, read through the lens of night vs. day, might say to us: “Unless evil and you are both exposed, no good will come.” You will not make disciples in the dark. Change will only come when the light shines. Life is found at dawn, not in the night.
News has come in my part of the world that a prominent Christian Bookstore chain has gone belly up and all the stores, including my wife’s favorite source of cards and Christian kitsch over by the mall. I commented to my daughter that we now had but one little independent Christian bookstore left in the area. She reminded me that her favorite place to get a Buckeye Latte’ is a Christian bookstore. It occurred to me that I had always thought of the place as a purely a coffee shop and never really as a Christian bookstore. The baristas are always busy and they are not overtly religious about their sandwiches or the cappuccino they brew. The tables are busy, the aisles and display racks are not.
It is, in short, a good place to be interested in Jesus, to be fascinated with Jesus, to be a sympathizer of Jesus — and to have a nice cup of Chai.
Is this your kind of place? Don’t get me wrong, espresso is a good thing. But it doesn't impress evil and neither does it defeat it.
Last week we observed an episode in the wilderness. Jesus was being tempted by the devil. Jesus, being the Son of God was well known to the tempter. The sun was shining that day, so to speak. Jesus knew who he was doing battle with. The tempter knew who he was hoping to conquer.
“Those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” (11:10) Maybe the text today can be an encouragement to us to dare the light: Be known and be set against the cunning assaults of the tempter, knowing that such disclosure comes at a price but that remaining safely in the night exacts its own price. Nicodemus found that standing against the world on its own standards and laws was ineffective. (7:51) It mattered not one bit that he asked the world to live by its own standards. The world is happy to rewrite those when it feels like it. (7:52)
Be known by stepping into the light as one of the Lord’s own even if that means that you now live purely by the standards of Heaven, where thieves and moths, the world, and the tempter have no power and where their schemes have no influence. No, they don’t like your new independence or your new sight. The man born blind knows this well. (Jn 9) He is also the only one who ever worships Jesus in the Gospel of John. Please, join him.