There’s an old spiritual with the words:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees,
His name was Nicodemus and he didn’t believe.
The same came to Christ by night.
Wanted to be taught out of human sight.
Nicodemus was a man who desired to know
how a man can be born when he is old.
Christ told Nicodemus as a friend,
“Man you must be born again.”
Said, “Marvel not, man, if you wanna be wise,
Repent, believe and be baptized”.
It’s a paraphrase of this week’s Gospel, the story of Nicodemus, an established priestly leader coming to figure out who this radical rabbi Yeshu’a was (John 3:1-17). The story contains some rich theology, including what is possibly the most exalted, well-known and oft-memorized verse in the Bible (verse 16). You will find it printed in scores of languages at the front of Gideon Bibles throughout the world.
What has always intrigued me about this story is how Nicodemus came to Jesus “by night.” A simple phrase, but it says a lot about the encounter. Why not the daytime? Was Nicodemus too busy during the day? Did he have to travel far? Or perhaps, as mentioned in the words of the spiritual above and most commonly assumed, he wanted to meet this guy “out of human sight.”
What was at risk for Nicodemus? What was he scared of?
I actually think that you and I share some of the same risks and fears when we identify ourselves with Jesus. We probably know plenty of people who are skeptical about religion and about Christianity in general. It’s particularly true in the “None” zones of the country like ours, places where people are most likely to check the box “None” when asked about their religious affiliation.
So, this Sunday, I want to focus on how we’re like Nicodemus and if there’s anyway we can get past that. Do we want to get past it? Why? What’s at stake for you in identifying with Jesus?
Other events this Sunday:
I look forward to seeing you in church.