“Such outrageous ideas he has! Such a constant problem. We must get rid of him.” Eliab stabbed the floor impatiently with his staff.
“Ah, but he has a following. Those like him always do - weak-minded, uneducated crazies - falling for the latest heresy, causing trouble. We have to be very careful,” Nethanel warned.
“What do you make of his ‘rebuilding the temple’ statement? In three days? He is out of his mind!” Pagiel smirked.
“Nicodemus, you are quiet. What are your thoughts?” Nethanel asked.
“I ... am confused,” the old pharisee stroked his beard looking down at the ground. “Why would any God-fearing Jew ever let go of his beliefs, take such a great risk as to follow this heretic?”
“Exactly what we are saying!” Eliab agreed.
“Why don’t you go to see him? Find out what trickery he uses. At least find out what he thinks he will gain by pointing a finger at us!” Pagiel challenged. “Ha, that could be fun, no?”
Pagiel intended it in jest, but Nicodemus pondered Pagiel’s challenge through the remainder of their meeting. By the time they adjourned he knew that he would indeed go to see and to hear the ‘Great Teacher’.
It was easy to find the teacher. His following was quite large and growing - an annoying and incongruous problem for the Pharisees.
Nicodemus stood on the fringes and listened. He didn’t expect it to take very long, he was a man of discernment after all. But he heard words of compassion, stories with deep hidden truths and scriptural references that would be impossible for a common laborer to know so well. And the miracles! This man (man?) healed with a touch. He fed hoards of people, with what? And there was no disorder, no fighting. Everyone trusted and everyone was served. Who was this teacher and what was his purpose here?
The old pharisee had to know more, but he had to be discreet. No one must know - unless of course he could expose the teacher as a follower of the evil one.
That idea was becoming more and more unlikely to Nicodemus. This teacher really seemed to love others. All others. Could the evil one do that? Was there an evil one? What was real? Truly Nicodemus believed that God was real and God was often filled with wrath. He would not go against the laws of his God. He feared God.
Still, he had to learn more about this ‘Jesus’ this Galilean.
Late one night, deeply hidden in the borrowed cloak he wore, he knocked quietly at the door where Jesus rested. Nicodemus’s breath was shallow, his hand shook, his heart pounded.
The door opened slowly and there he was, this man who caused so much turmoil. Nicodemus felt anger, peace, confusion.
“Teacher, may I join you?...I know the hour is late, but” Nicodemus’s words tumbled out in apologetic idiocy.
“You are welcome, that is the very reason I have come,” the teacher opened the door so Nicodemus could enter.
“You are wrong, it is I who have come to you.” Nicodemus pulled his cloak more tightly around himself as he stepped toward the light. “I’ve come because I can tell that God has sent you.”
The teacher went right to the heart of the matter. “Unless you are born again, you can never get into the Kingdom of God.”
“Sir, that is impossible. What are you saying?” Nicodemus sputtered.
“Man can only give human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven. You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand?” The teacher asked.
Nicodemus wondered if any good could possibly come of this meeting, but he felt compelled to stay.
The two talked for hours. Each time his cloak fell from his shoulders, Nicodemus gathered it back about himself. When he finally left the teacher, he tried to bury himself even more deeply in it.
The sun would be up soon, casting light on everything. Already though, he knew the truth and it shook him to his core. This was something his training would not let him do.
It was too much to expect of an old man. Or was it?
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