He was being furtive – inquisitive – curious – responsible – but not wrong. He didn’t invite that attack with a blade of light more powerful than any laser gun, making him feel like he’d been exploded into oblivion.
Light. Blinding, piercing, exposing light.
He was a dignified man, held in high esteem by all who knew him. As he walked the streets, people would step back to let him pass. He was an upright man, trusted and even loved by all who were part of his circle of friends, family and colleagues, albeit in a somewhat distant respectful fashion. He was a learned man, knowing more about the intricacies and interpretations of the law than almost anybody else in the country.
So why was he exposed in this way? After all, there had been nothing to expose, surely?
Had anybody noticed? How could they not? Being in the spotlight like this would ruin his standing in the community. He had only intended to do some background research. To protect society from potentially destabilizing factions … unless, of course, such destabilization was appropriate. It was that question which he had intended to explore.
The man who had slipped up the external staircase confidently under the cover of darkness, shoulders erect, head held high, with not a hair or a thread out of place, later made his way down the stairs and into the laneway, shoulders stooped, hair dishevelled, sleeves rolled up, face stained with tears of horror. He had not been physically assaulted, but spiritually and emotionally he had taken a great strike. He had been insulted.
What pained him like a sword thrust deep into his abdomen and twisted back and forth violently was that the insult was absolutely valid.
“Let there be light,” the great Creator had said, millennia earlier. And there had been light. Piercing light. Light which brought life … without which life could not be.
Those words, abounding in creative power, spoken by the Awesome One whose name this man could not bear to speak for fear of its greatness, those words had become The Word. And this Word, somehow, had been there on the rooftop, exposing the darkness just as surely as had happened right back at the beginning of time itself.
The Word had not only stood before him, but it had thrust that insult into Nicodemus. The Word Himself was life and the light of all people. The Creator, the light of the world, life itself, had exploded into millions … gazillions … of pieces Nicodemus’ allusion of being in any way, shape or form ‘good’.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said the Light personified, “and do you not understand these things? … You do not accept our testimony … You do not believe……” (John 3:10-13 NIV).
Nicodemus slithered out into the dark street and, pressing against the walls of the buildings, headed for who knows where. He could not hide.
It took a while, but Nicodemus did indeed step out into that light, allowing it envelop him with its power, warmth and cleansing radiation. It culminated the day that the Word Incarnate’s prophecy came about, the prophecy that had been delivered in the context of that excruciating insult.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:14-15 NIV) The day that happened, Nicodemus and a friend with whom he had secretly discussed these deep, terrible, yet wonderful truths, effectively terminated their careers and openly declared their faith. On that day, Nicodemus approached the ruler of the land for permission, then took the lifeless body of the Light, of Life, of the Word. They wrapped it with burial spices in strips of linen, then laid it with great reverence in a cold, empty, lifeless tomb, where, to their shock and delight, it remained for only a short time.
Indeed, this man was Light and Life.
This tale has two possible endings. It is not just Nicodemus’ story, but also yours. Will you choose to believe in the Light of the World? Or will you, like so many of Nicodemus’ self-righteous self-important colleagues, remain in darkness?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life…. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world but people loved darkness instead of light… “ (John 3:16, 19 NIV)
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