The Conversation | John 3:1-2
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” John 3:1-2 | ESV
And then one of humankind showed up on his doorstep: One of the Pharisees, the strict party that didn’t believe in parties at all, Nicodemus was his name (“conqueror of the people” – Conan the Barbarian, only religious and wearing a robe); and this wasn’t just any Pharisee. He was a man of importance, one on the ruling council of the Jewish establishment. He sought Jesus out – not during the day in public in the temple courtyard – but at night outside the city, perhaps near a certain olive grove…and he says to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that God himself has sent you as a Teacher – what other reasonable explanation can there be! No one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God was totally backing his act…” MAV (Mike’s Authorized Version)
Once we accept and embrace the proposition that John is not a linear man or storyteller, then all bets are off as to chronology in this Gospel. This is not a chronological tale. John loops about. Typically, we look for a chronological flow through these early chapters of John, and so we merely update the Synoptic Gospel (Matt/Mark/Luke) with the Johannine additions. But what if, having started at the beginning of his tale John relates the previously untold story of the first week of Jesus’ ministry – and the previously untold story of the first miracle/sign performed by Jesus at a nobody wedding in a nowhere town – and then he slingshots forward from the alpha to the omega, from beginning to end, relating the temple cleansing that is mentioned in the Synoptics and then a previously unrecorded conversation with an otherwise unknown Jewish leader, both of which effectively usher us into major spoiler preview of the story climax towards which we are headed. What if? What if this conversation with Nicodemus actually took place in the last week of Jesus’ life, at night, outside Jerusalem, not too far from that olive grove where Jesus would soon be arrested, the Lamb of God led away to the slaughter? I’m not going to say or try to prove that it’s so, but it’s an intriguing “what if?” that I’m running with it this time through John. It is clear that Nicodemus comes to Jesus after a clearly established track record of signs performed, and enough time has passed for there to have been plenty of discussion about Jesus by the powers that be. And putting this conversation just days before the Son was lifted up on that cross, and not far from the spot where it happened, makes it all the more meaningful. What strikes me as I ponder the scene is seeing the wizened Jewish councilor in his flowing robe and long white beard, standing there, imposing, Gandalf-like, and the young itinerant Rabbi, undistinguished, and from a physical and status standpoint, at least, rather unimposing and unimpressive. And the teacher becomes pupil; the rabbi, disciple; the master, apprentice. There’s so much that we would say, pronounce, and pontificate to Jesus – telling him his business, instructing him in the light of our more advanced theological insights. But the Word still leaves us in all of our brilliance and sophistication…wordless.
We often talk about what we would do when we first meet Jesus one-on-one. Nicodemus complimented him and, probably, had some questions. How do you envision your first meeting with Jesus? What do you see yourself doing? What do you see happening?
Lord, there is so much bursting within my heart to say to you, questions to press, answers to seek, assurances to receive, tears to share. Set my heart free to be lost in your loving embrace – not finally in the next World – but here, and now. Let me see your face beckoning me near in the night I seek you.
For all of this week’s small group resources including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.