Nicodemus, unlike his fellow Pharisees, felt he had something to learn from Jesus. His journey began in darkness, which John uses as a symbol of ignorance, and it ended in the light of the cross. The evangelist uses his character to allow Jesus to expound some of the most beautiful teaching of God’s love for humanity. Jesus talked of himself as being lifted up, as Moses lifted the bronze serpent in the desert. It is a powerful image. The serpent was erected on a pole to heal the sinful people of Israel from snake bites (Numbers 21:8-9). Jesus would be raised on the cross and people who looked on him and believed would be healed and saved.
God liberated the Jewish people through King Cyrus of Persia, a just ruler, who respected the religions of his subjects. Jesus would liberate his people from their sins by his passion, death and resurrection. Nicodemus obviously found much more in his search than he expected. He must have spent time pondering on what Jesus had said, coming at last to honour him openly at his burial. We are all living through very difficult times but today’s liturgy demonstrates how God works consistently through all kinds of people and situations. As St Paul says: “He brought us to life in Christ.”