by Janine Schenone
We rarely get glimpses of Jesus at night in the Bible. The two that come to mind are Jesus’ night in Gethsemane before his arrest, and also his late-night discussion with Nicodemus. This conversation with Nicodemus is depicted in the Gospel of John (2:23-3:15), which is the Daily Office reading for today.
This scene between Nicodemus and Jesus is so touching to me. Here is Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, coming in secret, or so it seems, which is why he comes to see Jesus “by night.” He wants to know Jesus, to understand Jesus, but he’s afraid to show his fellow Pharisees that he’s intrigued by this Jesus guy.
It’s also touching to me because conversations in the dark, these late-night talks, have a totally different tone and mood. Think of the conversations that happen in the dark. That’s when lovers talk about their truest selves. It’s when children tell their parents about the disastrous day at school, when teenagers plot their escapes, when anything that we fear or wonder about comes knocking at the door of our psyche, asking to speak. It can be the most intimate and true time. We are somehow stripped bare of pretenses and paltry matters.
At times when I have lain awake in the dark, worrying or wondering or hoping mightily, I have talked to Jesus. Talking to him at night is so different from talking to him during the day. It is when I am most real with Jesus—and with myself. Like Nicodemus, I am often full of questions. But I have learned that a real conversation with Jesus consists of listening to him. If we set aside the questions and simply listen in the dark, we can find our way to peace and a quiet mind.
In Lent, Jesus invites us into conversation in the dark. We are not at Gethsemane yet, though. That will come soon enough. Right now, it is enough to imagine ourselves following the footsteps of Nicodemus. Imagine yourself in a late-night conversation in the dark with Jesus. You have followed him to a secluded place, and he wishes to speak to you. Listen.