Psalm 7:2-3, 9-10, 11-12
Today’s readings from Jeremiah and John’s gospel focus on the plotting of the people against those speaking for God.
Jesus chose to go to Judea for the Feast of Tabernacles, even though he was aware that some Jews were plotting to arrest and kill him.
It is a bit confusing that Jesus sends his disciples to the feast in Judea without him, then later appears in the temple in Judea to teach, publicly vulnerable to those who were plotting against him. Why would Jesus place himself in danger, if he realized that he still had much to share about God with the people - unless, of course, he was driven by the message he had to share with the people?
The crowds try to discern who and what Jesus is - might he be the
prophet, the Messiah, for whom they have been waiting? Yet, he
The guards are reluctant to follow their orders to arrest Jesus. “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” The Pharisees are not pleased with the guards, accusing them of also being deceived.
And then Nicodemus, a Pharisee, speaks to his colleagues: “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?”
In the past, I have found Nicodemus to be a weak character in the gospels. He seems drawn to Jesus’ teachings, but lurks in the cover of night in his search for truth. (Jn. 3:1-21) He assists in the burial of Jesus’ body, but again, secretly at night (Jn.19: 38-42) Nicodemus seems cowardly in his search for the truth.
However, this reading leads me to another view. Nicodemus finally speaks up…risking his status among his colleagues as he quotes their law to them. The other Pharisees then question him: “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Suddenly, Nicodemus has ‘outed’ himself – has spoken up for Jesus by quoting Jewish law. And Nicodemus’ peers attempt to put him in his place.
How difficult it must have been for Nicodemus to courageously quote law in defense of Jesus. We don’t know what happened between Nicodemus and the other Pharisees later. (We do know that he secretly helps Joseph of Arimathea to place Jesus’ body in a tomb before the Jewish preparation day.)
I like to believe that I would have courageously defended Jesus and his message. Possibly, I would have been proud that Nicodemus raised his questions to the other Pharisees. But would I have publicly challenged my friends and neighbors’ doubts about Jesus’ status as a prophet, or even the Messiah?
What gets in the way of standing courageously with the word of God, especially when it points to an injustice? Was Nicodemus weighing the ‘odds’ of what he had to say against what he had to loose? Isn’t that what I do sometimes?
I am always encouraged when others stand up for justice. And I like to think that I am proudly at their side. However, sometimes I do weigh the ‘odds’.
My prayer today is that I listen to the Spirit more often, grow in
the courage to speak up for justice, and throw off the cover/protection
of secretly tiptoeing around ‘group think’, if and when it does not ‘ring
true’ as God’s word/presence in my world.
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