5-25-15 - Interviewing Jesus

It feels like we’ve been here before, and recently, with Jesus and Nicodemus and their theological discussion about spirit and flesh, comprehension and new birth. Is it already time for a rerun?

So says the Lectionary. And one beauty of Scripture, if we’re open to it, is that it never says exactly the same thing, because we’re never in exactly the same space when we receive it. We should be able to spend a year on this passage and not exhaust its meaning (God help us!) So let’s have another look at this conversation, and explore how it might illuminate the mysteries of the Triune God for us.

Maybe the place to begin is to treat it as story, not as theology. What if we enter this as a story we’ve never heard. Who are the main characters? What do we know about them?

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”

Okay, so we know this Nicodemus is a leader of Jews, and that he is a Pharisee. A little research tells us the Pharisees were a sect of Jews known for their fidelity to the Law and to holiness. Though we find in the Gospels many contentious encounters between Jesus and Pharisees, and Jesus is quoted as being highly critical of what he perceived to be the hypocrisy and heavy-handedness of many Pharisees, their goals were honorable: to keep God’s law in every particular and so reflect the holiness and righteousness of God.

Beyond this, we're told little about Nicodemus, but that he was a person who chose to come and see Jesus at night instead of in the broad light of day. Was he too busy during the day? Or was Jesus too surrounded by crowds by day? Or did Nicodemus not want to be seen?

And who is this Jesus he came to see? Nicodemus labels him a teacher, from God, who can do amazing miracles. (What we call miracles, John’s gospel terms “signs.”) So we can infer that he is a holy person, someone with authority, and probably pretty special to be sought out by a man of Nicodemus’ standing. Nicodemus wants to learn something: it appears that he wants to know, for himself, whether or not this strange man, so holy and powerful, yet willing to spend time with people who are sick, sinful, or both, is for real: Is he really God-sent?

Isn’t that what we’d like to know too? We who have put our faith in a man we’ve never met in flesh, in a story that we tell and re-tell because we’ve seen its power to open the human heart. Don't we want to know Jesus is for real?

Imagine you are Nicodemus. You want to find out more about this Jesus you’re pretty sure is the Real Thing. You find a time and a place where you can talk with him face to face. Set that up in your imagination - where are you?

What do you say?

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