In episode 7 of season one of The Chosen Nicodemus, the Pharisee and revered Jewish teacher, finally gets his meeting with Jesus. This famous conversation found in John 3 reveals a heart that is open and curious about Jesus and his Kingdom.
He comes to Jesus “by night”, maybe a simple practical precaution to not stir up a crowd, but maybe it is John’s way of saying Nicodemus’ soul is still in the dark until he receives the Holy Spirit, is “born again from above,” and comes into the bright new day of life in the Kingdom Jesus is bringing.
[LISTEN TO A PODCAST ON THIS EPISODE HERE]
In the episode, Mary of Magdala describes Nicodemus as different from the other Pharisees in that “he is earnest” and has a “hunger” to know the truth. The scene is poignant, brilliantly shot and powerfully acted. Today, I want us to each imagine ourselves in Nicodemus’s shoes, sitting at a table face to face with Jesus, and having him look us in the eye and ask, “What’s on your heart friend? Ask any question, I’m all ears.”
In fact, I want to invite you to carve out a special 30-60 minute slot this week, and find a private place to light a candle and have your own conversation with Jesus. What questions would you ask if given a private meeting with Jesus?
I wonder if we share even a fraction of Nicodemus’s wonder and curiosity about Jesus and the kingdom he’s bringing? Are we consumed with questions about what God is up to in Jesus? Do we find ourselves transfixed as we ponder how Jesus has brought the entire Old Testament, its hopes and longings, to a dramatic climax in Christ?
This episode begins with a flashback to Moses and Aaron, to the lifting up the bronze snake on a pole/cross to save the Israelites from the deadly bit of the serpent. Jesus uses this image to describe what he came to do for the entire human race afflicted with the deadly venomous bite of sin. Jesus will be lifted up on the cross, and all who would “look” upon him will be healed and saved.
Where as modern preaching has emphasized “belief” in Jesus in order to be saved, this passage has an even stronger emphasis on having our eyes opened to “see” the kingdom, and the need to “look upon” the snake on a pole and Jesus on the cross in order to be set free. So, I ask today in the midst of all of our own struggles and anxiety, where are we fixing our eyes?
Are our eyes glued to the Scriptures, seeking to be faithful followers of the Way of Jesus? Are our eyes fixed on the eternal perspective, looking at our current national issues in light of the larger Story of redemption history and God’s transnational Kingdom on the move?
Or, as I fear, are our eyes fixed on our TV screens as we binge the latest serious as an escape from our troubles and our troubled world? Are our eyes fixed to cable news and social media that are stoking fear and spreading worldly perspectives and misinformation?
Let us light that candle and find that private room with Jesus. See him with our mind’s eyes and cast all our cares upon him. Invite the Spirit-wind to blow through the empty corridors of our heart and to light a warm fire within our weary souls.
In a stroke of genius, the screenwriter places Psalm 2 on the lips of Nicodemus and Jesus at the end of their conversation. This is the end of a royal messianic Psalm that invites all to acknowledge God’s rule and his Son with a kiss. Nicodemus gets onto his knees and kisses Jesus’ hand. Jesus says, “You don’t have to do that,” while Nicodemus quotes the Psalm and says, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.” Jesus reassures him by quoting the final line, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Will Nicodemus “follow” Jesus? Will he find refuge in Him in the end? We shall see.
Let us all drop to our knees in humble dependency and worship, and imagine ourselves in that gentle embrace that closes the scene.