Many who had been listening to these words began to say, “This is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some wondered, “Would the Christ come from Galilee? Doesn’t Scripture say that the Christ is a descendant of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David?” The crowd was divided over him. Some wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
The officers of the temple went back to the chief priests, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man.” The Pharisees then said, “So you, too, have been led astray! Have any of the rulers or any of the Pharisees believed in him? Only these cursed people, who have no knowledge of the law!”
Yet one of them, Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier, spoke out, “Does our law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?” They replied, “Do you, too, come from Galilee? Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee.”
And they all went home.
Nicodemus is a minor figure in the New Testament, but an interesting one because, although he appears only three times on the gospel scene, we can witness how he gradually evolved from being an honest coward to being a courageous believer.
Nicodemus is first mentioned in John’s gospel when he comes at night to investigate Jesus (Jn 3). Since he interviews Jesus at night, it is obviously because he does not want to be seen in public with him. As member of the Sanhedrin, he cannot risk his reputation of impartiality, prudence, loyalty to the Law. Our Nicodemus is cautious, circumspect, timid. He is definitely a coward, but an honest one since he does go to the trouble of interviewing Jesus. Ironically, the name Nicodemus in Greek means “conqueror of the people.”
Then, in today’s gospel episode, we see Nicodemus timidly defending the right of Jesus to a fair hearing. And he is insulted for this.
Finally, we see Nicodemus helping Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus (Jn 19:39). He even provides a large and costly quantity of spices for this. At this point we suspect that the honest coward has become an honest and courageous believer.
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