While Nicodemus is only mentioned three times in the Bible, each time is significant. Let’s check out all three occasions.
We first encounter Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus, a Pharisee (a member of an influential Jewish sect) and member of the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Council of the Jewish people), sought Jesus at night for a conversation. Why have a chat at night? Well, Matthew, another Gospel writer, records Jesus calling the Pharisees hypocrites and blind guides, suggesting that what they taught was untrue. So if Nicodemus’s buddies saw him talking with Jesus, it wouldn’t do much for his social life—not to mention his professional one.
But Nicodemus recognized something his fellow Pharisees did not. He said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2). This private Q&A between Nicodemus and Jesus continues as Nicodemus seems to sincerely want to understand who Jesus is.
The second time Nicodemus showed up was in John 7. Nicodemus was pleading with his fellow Jewish leaders for fairness regarding Jesus. The Pharisees questioned whether anyone believed Jesus was who he said he was. They thought Jesus was a lunatic. Nicodemus didn’t speak up to say, “I do! I believe!” Instead, he suggested that they should not condemn Jesus without first hearing from him. It’s very possible that Nicodemus was still wrestling with the earlier conversation he had with Jesus.
And finally, in John 19, Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to wrap and prepare Jesus’s body for burial. Notably, this time Nicodemus’s actions regarding Jesus were not in private but in the company of another. Why would he help a Jesus follower prepare the body of a man his colleagues despised and had executed? Either Nicodemus had deep remorse over the death of a lunatic, or he had come to believe Jesus was who he claimed to be—a man sent by God, the Son of God, who had come to tell and show others who God truly is. And we can only assume that his belief in Jesus would be confirmed a few days later.
We see Nicodemus transition from a person who was more comfortable interacting with Jesus privately (at night, no less) into someone whose public actions demonstrated he was a full-on follower of Jesus. If you are a Christ follower, do you follow Jesus publicly or is your relationship with him more private? What would have to change to make your relationship with Jesus more public? What would change if it were more public?