"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him."
John could have kept Nicodemus anonymous, but his identity was important. He was a Pharisee, and from other passages in the New Testament, we find that Pharisees were known for their attempts to criticize and discredit Jesus and his ministry. This makes Nicodemus’ approach much more significant because one would not expect a Pharisee to be interested in Jesus’ teachings nor influenced to the point of belief by His miracles. One can imply from Nicodemus’ approach “by night” that he did not want to draw any attention to himself because of his position and reputation in the community. Rather than coming to Jesus in the presence of others, Nicodemus came in the comfort of the night – when no one was expected to be around.
Nicodemus shouldn't have been ashamed, some say.
Well, that's easy to say in a church culture where a person's salvation isn't valid until they've raised their hand in the midst of a congregation and/or presented themselves at the sanctuary's altar. In a culture where publicity is a prerequisite for verification, it is easy to criticize Nicodemus. And I'm only saying this because years ago I took the exact same stance. I was just as legalistic, hellfire and brimstone-ish as anyone else. Like generations before me, I grew up in a church culture where scaring people into salvation is the only way to ensure that they will take it seriously. Thus I was ingrained with beliefs about God that presented Him in every other light but the light of grace. Nicodemus shouldn't have been ashamed, I would've said back then. But the Kayleon who came into an understanding of grace in 2017 says: Let him who has always boldly approached God cast the first stone.
The reality is... some of us would approach God "by night," too, if it was up to us.
Hence, why we don't like accountability.
Why we shy away from life groups.
Why we badger faith traditions that value confession.
Why we love when the preacher says "make this whole church an altar" so no one will know if we're going through something that requires prayer. As if needing prayer is a bad thing...
Some people condemn Nicodemus for coming by night. I used to. But now my thing is, even if you have to come by night, just come. And plus, Jesus didn't have an issue with him coming at night. He actually says in verse 18 that the person who believes (regardless of how, when, or where they come) is not condemned. So any condemnation I would have deemed justified in the past isn't even biblical.
Not only as a minister of the Gospel but as a Christian, I am convicted by these thoughts:
Am I just as willing to minister or evangelize to those who come "by night?"
Do I withhold the Gospel from those I feel haven't approached God in the way I am used to or prefer?
There is so much packed in the book of John, but I wanted to highlight this portion of chapter three. There are more encounters in this chapter that I encourage you to check out whenever you get the chance. If you are interested in resources and videos on various books of the Bible, check out the "A Moment With God" Instagram community and YouTube channel hosted by Tori Hilliard. I highly recommend it to anyone who desires to study Scripture but in an easy-to-understand way and with some accountability.