A Pastor's Perspective 09-19-2023

   Our new sermon series, “Conversations” began with the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus that is recorded in the third chapter of John.  What happened after that conversation?  We do not know exactly but we do know that the two men stay connected throughout and beyond Jesus’ earthly life.
   Later in John's Good News account (John 7:40-52) we see Nicodemus standing up for Jesus during a heated dispute about Jesus among the Pharisees. It is clear that Nicodemus is trying to afford his fellow Pharisees the same privilege he had, that of listening to what Jesus had to say. He is saying, "Just listen to what he has to say. Have a conversation with the man. That is what our scripture would lead you to do." Unfortunately, Nicodemus' colleagues do not want to hear Jesus and turn to some technicality to dismiss the mature assertion of Nicodemus to talk with Jesus instead of talking about Jesus. However, these guys want their way with Jesus rather than the truth about Jesus. It is always a dangerous step toward more incredible immaturity and ignorance when a person or a group decides about someone without listening to that someone. Nicodemus was not such a person.
   John mentions one other thing about Nicodemus before his book ends. It is after the execution of Jesus. Nicodemus, this man of the Pharisees, esteemed and respected by many, seems to throw caution to the wind.
   Those of us who know the story of Jesus' burial remember that Joseph of Arimathea, who feared the Jewish leaders, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' lifeless body. Note, Joseph is more fearful of the Jewish leaders than the ruthless and powerful Roman leader Pontius Pilate. And in a twist that is too strange for fiction, Nicodemus, a Jewish leader himself, comes alongside Joseph at some point. It might have been Nicodemus' political clout that convinced Pilate to give up Jesus' body. Or it might be that Nicodemus provided the costly and perhaps hard-to-procure burial items. Whatever the case, Nicodemus is beside Joseph of Arimathea in seeing that Jesus' burial is one of dignity. (John 19:38-40)  
   Jewish legend has a cautionary tale about Nicodemus - a warning not to get too close to Jesus. It purports that Nicodemus becomes a follower of Jesus and that in doing so, he loses his position, friends and wealth, living out his days in poverty and homelessness. The truth is we do not know what became of Nicodemus. He may have become a fully devoted follower of Jesus and like most early followers, he endured persecution.  
   We know that his encounter with Jesus marked his life and that the encounter gives us great clarity on how we enter the Kingdom of God. I like to think that we will meet Nicodemus in heaven and that he will fill in the blanks of what happened after the conversation that brought him into the light.  
   May all of us who call Jesus Lord and Snyder our church home shine the light of Jesus this day.   Looking forward, Blake

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