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Nicodemus

Uproar.  That’s the only word for it.  Precisely the thing that the Council must not allow to happen.  Who could predict how Pilate would react? 
By PAUL ZILMER
Read Time: 3 minutes

The governor isn’t exactly forgiving, and everyone knows he keeps a very close eye on the crowds at the feasts.  Crowds he allows.  Mobs, no.  How will he view the throngs crowding around this Galilean rabbi?

As unsettled as the crowd is about Rabbi Jesus, the Council is feeling even more unsettled.  Not because they can’t figure out if Jesus is the Messiah!  They know he’s a fraud.  But they are distinctly unsettled about what to do about it.

How will he view the throngs crowding around this Galilean rabbi?

Nicodemus vividly remembers the late-night conversation he had with Jesus back at the beginning.  The way the Galilean handles the scripture, and above all the miraculous signs, long ago convinced the Chief Rabbi that Jesus is a prophet, and someone to pay attention to.  But the hysteria of the crowds could lead to disaster.  Pilate isn’t a man who tolerates being uninformed.  It is pure folly to think he doesn’t know what Jews mean when they talk about “Messiah”.

The Pharisee faction in the Council has a comfortable position of control.  For once the Sadducees don’t object, and the Council easily approves the arrest of the troublemaker in the temple.  As the emergency session of the Council breaks up, Nicodemus sees the captain of the temple guard already instructing a squad to make the arrest.

After the agreed-on break while the guards bring the Galilean in, the Council members trickle back into the chamber.  All that remains now is to wait, and they’ll finally get some answers.  They wait.  And they wait.  They call the guard captain in and ask pointedly where his officers are and where the prisoner is.  Greatly embarrassed, the captain assures them he will personally bring them in, and quickly leaves.  They wait some more.

Finally, it seems like hours later, the guard captain enters the chamber with the officers he had dispatched.  And no prisoner.  The guard captain looks miserable, and the guards themselves seem shaken.

“Well?  Where is he?  Why isn’t he here?” demands the Chief Priest.  The captain pushes forward the squad leader.  The man has never been in such a position in his life.  The entire Council is glaring at him.  Nicodemus can see in the man’s posture, there’s no doubt in his mind that his career is over.  The Council president thunders, “Well?”

The sergeant is visibly shaking, then gets a grip on himself.  Nicodemus is impressed as the man pulls himself up and looks the president in the eye.  Finally he speaks, “No one ever spoke like he does.”  And all the other guards nod behind him.  Nicodemus surprises himself by inwardly nodding too.

The Council explodes, everyone shouting at once.  With a commanding voice the president restores order, his face purple with rage.  Through gritted teeth he growls, “Are you utter fools?  Do you think you know better than we do what this man is?”  With a withering sneer, he goes on.  “You are just part of the cursed mob of unwashed sinners out there!  No one in here is being taken in by this fraud!”

In the silence which follows, no one expects the sergeant to respond, and he doesn’t.  The faces of most of the Council reflect the anger and contempt of the president.  But there are a few faces here and there that look troubled. One of those faces belongs to Nicodemus.  He takes a step forward from his place of honor as the Chief Rabbi.  Surprised, the president acknowledges him and gestures with his hand to speak if he has something to say.  All eyes turn toward him.

The Rabbi is a veteran of the political fight.  He knows how to build a coalition, and knows what words and actions will fracture one.  He knows which his words now will accomplish.  Clearing his throat, looking around at his colleagues, both friends and foes, he says, “It was clearly right to send our men here to bring this rabbi in to answer our questions.”  There is relief on some faces; they thought he might stir things up.  But he is not finished.  “Because our law does not judge a man without a hearing, does it?  Or without seeing what he actually does.”

Nicodemus stops.  It’s as far as he can go.  He is deeply concerned, though, that the Council is on a course far away from the Law they are supposed to uphold.  Silence lasts a mere moment, then angry shouts break out again.  Again the president restores order, and now turns his wrath on the Chief Rabbi, accurately perceiving the implication of the Rabbi’s question.  “What?  Are you some Galilean fool also?  No prophet arises from Galilee!”

“Ah,” Nicodemus thinks to himself, “you are unfamiliar then with Jonah and Nahum?”  But he says nothing, and does not let his face betray his certainty that he has just lost all support—and with it his position.

An imagining based on John 7:32-52 – a not-quite-there-yet believer coming to a decision point that will affect the rest of his life.  Placed in the record to encourage us to think about decision points in our own journey.  —Paul

 

 

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