Nicodemus by night

I switched the TV on, on Thursday to see the General Synod advertised as one of the choices on the Sky programme. I am always overawed by the quality of debate at that level. I count myself a reasonably intelligent person, and I could only understand about 50% of what was actually being said, albeit that I switched on half way through and found the debate difficult to ‘get into.’

We could liken the General Synod, to the Sanhedrin of Jesus’ day. It too was a government of religious people; in the case of the Sanhedrin, 71 in number, with supreme legislative, executive and judicial powers over Jewish faith and lifestyle, yet at the time of Jesus it was also answerable to the Romans who could over-ride their decisions. These Jewish leaders probably were what we would call the top theologians of the day…and Nicodemus was one of them.

Our gospel today begins with the words…

‘Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night…’

Here was a Nicodemus, seeking Jesus out to talk with him in private, and what better time than at night, when the crowds were no longer there.

Some have even suggested that he went there in secret, so as not to provoke the Jewish leaders who looked on Jesus an upstart and a troublemaker.

But what we can say about Nicodemus is that he seems to have had an honest desire to exchange ideas with Jesus, and he has seen the wonders and miracles Jesus has performed. He is already convinced in his own mind that God is working through Jesus, who he believes is a teacher sent by God. Now here he is…having an exclusive one-to-one discussion.

Don’t you ever wish you could have had the same chance to have a one to one with Jesus?

Tony Blair seems to be encouraging this kind of open and free dialogue with ordinary people at present in order to win the votes of the 'ditherers', those people who once voted Labour and who seem to have lost faith in the party.

I think it’s very brave of a leader to do this, especially on live television, where someone could gain the upper hand, as one lady did just recently, who brought up the subject of special needs in the education system.

But the question I would like to put to you today is this…which question or questions would you put to Jesus, if you had a one to one with him, by night when no-one else was around. Just you and he!

I want to lead you in a short meditation this morning…set to a short piece of music…so that we can have the opportunity to do just that.

(Suitable music)

Let’s close our eyes for a moment and just imagine it is night-time and we are making our approach to Jesus who is sitting by a fire, which was ablaze earlier, but now it glows red and gives out just the right amount of heat to take the chill off the air.

Jesus is staring into the fire, the disciples are asleep, and you approach him, he turns his head and looks at you.

How does he greet you?

Who speaks first?

There is something on your mind you would like to put to him, and you are hoping he has an answer for you.

It may be that he doesn’t give you a chance to say very much, because he wants to tell you something instead, share some spiritual insight just as he did with Nicodemus.

Now is the chance to have that conversation, that all important one-to-one with him…


Music ends

All of our thoughts in meditation are personal to each one of us. It may be that you cannot share with anyone what your thoughts were just then, but for others it may be that you may want to find someone later, after the service, with whom you feel you CAN discuss the experience.

I always find it helpful to do this, you may too.

We don’t know how Nicodemus’ life was touched by this encounter in private with Jesus, but we do know that later he defended him against the aggressive Jewish leaders in John 7, and it's interesting to note that in John 19, Nicodemus has grown bolder and he joins forces with another colleague just like himself, Joseph of Arimathea.

Joseph provides a tomb for Jesus, Nicodemus provides the very generous gift of at least 3-4 kilograms of myrrh and aloes, and together the two of them, carefully wrap the grisly remains of Jesus in a cloth, and take him away for burial.

Each time we encounter Jesus in our prayers and listen and open ourselves to his voice today, we move on, we make progress, and we move deeper into his love;

AND in spirit and in truth, and through us, we, the community around us and the world can be born all over again.