John 19:39-40

Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

We haven’t seen Nicodemus for quite a while. You might remember him as the Pharisee who came to visit Jesus by night. During their meeting, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born anew (or “again” or “from above”). And when Nicodemus fails to understand, Jesus explains, eventually uttering what has become the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Interestingly, by that part in the scene, it’s hard to tell where Nicodemus is. We assume he’s there, listening to Jesus, but he’s not mentioned again and kind of fades away back into the shadows of the evening from whence he came. Whether he believed or continued to wonder, whether he was satisfied by Jesus’ answers or still had more questions, whether he becomes a disciple or remains only a seeker, is hard to tell.

That scene happened, according to John’s chronology, two years before this one, the scene of Jesus’ burial. Nicodemus makes another brief appearance in chapter 7, when he reminds his colleagues – who are debating whether to arrest Jesus – that their tradition is to give people a hearing before trying them. It suggests that Nicodemus continues to be at least intrigued by, and perhaps believes in, Jesus, but is also a bit ambiguous. Otherwise, Nicodemus is absent from the rest of John’s story about Jesus.

Until know, that it, when he reappears and, with Joseph of Arimathea, receives the body of Jesus and prepare it for burial. And, as with Joseph, his decision to care for Jesus’ dead body takes courage, as by his actions he is aligning himself with the cause of this recently executed enemy of the state.

And so if we learned from Joseph that it is never too late to become a disciple, we learn from Nicodemus that sometimes faith take time, a lot of time. Sometimes, that is, we might hear Jesus and not understand. Sometimes we have more questions than answers and more doubt than faith. Sometimes we need to think, or brood, or mull over what we’ve experienced for a while before we can respond.

All of which suggests that our persistent questions and lingering doubts are not just okay, but quite often a vital part of the life of faith. And so are those of others. So perhaps our faith communities can become those places that welcome questions, doubt, and more, because we realize that the journey of faith can be a long one and, as Nicodemus demonstrates, that’s just fine.

Prayer: Dear God, we thank you for Nicodemus and for Jesus’ encounter with him and the time he was allowed to come to faith. Let us be patient with the questions in our hearts, knowing that through these pursuing these questions we may indeed hear your voice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Post image: “The Entombment of Christ,” by Titian, c. 1520.