Secret Discipleship

“The same came to Jesus by night.” John 3:2

It was better to come by night than not to come at all, though we usually think that it showed timidity on the part of Nicodemus. We must remember, however, that Jesus did not rebuke him, nor did He refuse to accept even his secret discipleship. He seems to have received him with loving welcome, and to have taught him in the quiet way Nicodemus chose to come.

We must remember, too that the times then were not as they are now. Christ had not yet died, nor had the Christian Church been established. Certainly, secret discipleship is not justifiable now, whatever excuse Nicodemus may have had for it in his time. We know too that it was not satisfactory even in his case. We know that the time came when he could no longer remain a secret friend. When Jesus was dead on His cross, and when His body, as that of a crucified malefactor, was about to be buried in dishonour among criminals, it is remarkable that the two men who came forward and rescued it from such ignominy and gave it honourable sepulcher, had both until that day been secret disciples. The death of Christ so touched their hearts and aroused their timid, hesitating love, that they could not longer continue secret disciples. The true love of their hearts could not be repressed, and they came forward and risked and dared all for Him whom they had never before had courage openly to confess.

Secret discipleship is not satisfactory. It does not get the hearty approval of one’s own conscience. It does not bring full rich peace to the heart. It yields but a crippled and hampered Christian life at the best. If we love Christ we should come out boldly and confess Him at a time when our confession will honour Him and bring blessing to ourselves. We have a glorious promise that those who confess Him here, He will confess at the day of judgment before angels and men.