Our Identity in John’s Gospel Part III: Unmasking Nicodemus

The most famous unmasking encounter is in the conversation with Nicodemus. Here Jesus confronts the darkness directly and calls a man to a new kind of truth.

In this passage a member of the ruling council named Nicodemus comes to talk to Jesus. It is notable that he comes at night. In fact it’s to him that Jesus says, “Men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” Speaking to a man who would only come to him under the blanket of night gives this passage a new ferocity. In their conversation Jesus confronts his credentials (verse 10). Nicodemus was a teacher, and a very important one at that, this is made clear by the multiple reference to it. In fact it is by this role alone that we know Nicodemus’ understanding of himself. His own identity is caught up in his position. In verse two he doesn’t refer to himself but to his association using the pronoun we instead of I. Throughout their encounter we can see Jesus tearing off this mask with almost every word. Instead of engaging in academic discussions about תּוֹרָה (Torah), Jesus seems to argue that truth is achieved by living into it, and that way of life is “in the light” (verse 21).
Living in what God is doing is much more important than being knowledgeable. We don’t see how this encounter ends but Nicodemus is seen last bringing aloe and myrrh to care for Jesus’ body (19:39). I take this as a sign of great hope that Nicodemus began to love the light.

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