Two Sides of the Coin
Meet the Jewish Nicodemus, a Pharisee, teacher of Israel, a leader of the Jews and a member of the Sanhedrin - Supreme Court. A very busy man.
"Nicodemus...came to Jesus by night." By night? Why not in the daylight hours? Was he a coward, afraid that others would see him visit Jesus - who was definitely a controversial man - and think ill of him? Did he fear his peers would turn against him? Ridicule him? Bar him from admission to the synagogue? Was he timid and didn't want to draw attention to himself? Was he afraid of non-believing religious leaders reducing his rank and influence among the Pharisees?
If any of these were true, there might be a basis for judging his action with "Shame on you."
But perhaps there's another reason that hasn't been considered. And since human nature doesn't change, the other side of Nicodemus' late night visit is a plausible scenario.
As a Pharisee he honored and upheld the laws of God's word. But a decision needs to be made. What does he do with this man called Jesus? He seems to be a rebel against the practices of the Pharisees. A Pharisee teaches strict adherence to laws, but this Jesus teaches love. It seems to be his aim to reinterpret God's word. Most confusing. Certainly God wouldn't allow such heresies. Yet, this man is blessed in performing miracles. And his words draw people to live a different and better lifestyle. Heavy decision. Should this Jesus be embraced or rejected? Should he be followed or condemned?
As a teacher, he had to do a lot of studying. How often he taught and where he taught, we aren't told, but to teach Israel the ways of God was a heavy responsibility.
As a leader of the Jews, his counsel was no doubt sought after. People making decisions drew on Nicodemus' experiences. Problem-solving skills probably were needed and used. Again, a burdensome responsibility to be a leader. It meant developing confidence and trust in those who sought his wisdom.
As a member of the Sanhedrin, there must have been no end to the cases that needed to be heard, debated and then settled. Yet another weighty responsibility that was emotionally draining.
After such a day's work, who wouldn't want to go home and crash? Give the mind and emotions a break. No studying, no problems that needed solutions, no decisions of "who was right and who was wrong." No people picking your brain, no needy individuals leaning on you for support, no criticisms flung at you because you didn't rule in their favor.
This was Nicodemus' world. Yet, he sacrificed a quiet, well-deserved evening at home just so he could speak to Jesus. "Shame on you" doesn't apply to this man. And we can learn a valuable lesson from him. You are a better person when you put Jesus ahead of your own comfort.
Betty's note: I sat under a pastor who didn't apply this lesson. One evening after a full and exhausting day, Rev D. wanted nothing more than to relax. But Holy Spirit told him to visit his neighbor before getting comfortable at home. "I'm too tired," he told God. "I'll go in the morning."
True to his word, Rev D. did go the next morning, but it was too late. The neighbor committed suicide the night before. The guilt this pastor carried adversely affected the rest of his ministry.