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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Man Misunderstood Part 1

Well, I'm back. I was away for awhile, and did not take my laptop with me since now the airlines are charging for checked bags, I decided to take only the essentials. I saw the grand canyon again, this time with my brother Daniel, and we had a good time of brotherly bonding, catching up and just fellowship. We also enjoyed three services I spoke at, and to all the brothers on the west coast, God bless you.
The following teaching was supposed to be a short article in defense of Nicodemus and his heart. I started penning it while I was away, and it ended up being allot longer, and more in depth than I had previously imagined. It goes through Christ's entire conversation with Nicodemus, as well as the paramount need to be born again. More on that later. I only had time to transcribe a couple pages, and as often as I get a chance to type out what I wrote in my notebooks, I will post on this topic. For now, we begin the journey into this moment in time, where a man wise enough to know he didn't know it all approaches Jesus Christ, not from a position of pride, haughtiness, or authority as a Pharisee, but one of meekness, humility, and a willingness to learn.
John 3:1-2, “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
I believe my willingness to readily come to the defense of those falsely accused stems from early childhood. I still remember with great clarity, being a child brought up in a Communist country, yet belonging to a Christian family, that on a constant basis I and two fellow students whose parents were also Christians would be singled out by the teacher and principle, for what they had coined reeducation. We would be taken to special rooms, and berated, verbally assaulted, told there was no God, and that our parents were criminals of the worst kind because they stood against progress, and everything that was good in our nation.
Because I knew my parents, and grandparents, knew their character and love for God, even as a young child my anger would be stirred when I would hear false accusations made against them.
Throughout my life, having heard more than my fair share of sermons, each time the name of Nicodemus was mentioned, it was always attached to negative connotations, calling him a fearful man, and a coward for coming to Jesus at night, rather than in the day. Men with the spiritual depth of rain puddles are quick to discount Nicodemus, drawing conclusions and making assumptions absent of having all the facts at hand.
First, the Word tells us that Nicodemus was a man. Why would this matter? Why would this be important in unveiling the truth about Nicodemus? I don’t usually go into the Greek or Hebrew translations. I believe the word is simply written, and easily understood but for the sake of this teaching I will delve into the root of this word ‘man’. Since the gospel according to John was penned in the Greek language, the word used to describe Nicodemus was ‘anthropos’ the literal translation of this word is ‘because he looks upward’ or ‘he who looks upward’.
This is important, because not all men are truly men. Not all men look upward, both spiritually and physically, and throughout the gospel some men have been referred to as wolves, serpents, foxes, pigs, dogs, and the list goes on.
Matthew 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus! When Jesus spoke of dogs and swine, He was not referring to real dogs, or real swine but to the spiritual conditions of men, to their character. At one point in the gospel Jesus even called King Herod a fox, rebuking him. Nicodemus was a man, he was a soul who was searching for truth, who was willing to abandon his preconceived notions and receive the truth.
Only in the light of the Word of God, and with the help of the Holy Spirit can we know if a man is truly a man. Sometimes men’s titles, positions, affluence, or reputation overshadows, at least in the minds of some, whether or not they are truly men. The Pharisees were the most religious segment of the population, and although all were religious very few were truly men. Jesus Christ, who knew the hearts of all men warned His disciples and admonished them to ‘beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’
Nicodemus was a man among Pharisees. There was no hypocrisy in him, he did not worship God only when others were watching him, but rather he was a truly devout man, seeking truth, looking up to God with sincerity. Thus the reason why God compelled him to come to Jesus, that he might hear the truth. Nicodemus conquered himself, his own pride and ego, and came to Jesus.
Second, what we know of Nicodemus is that he was a ruler of the Jews. We don’t know how old Nicodemus was, but to become leader of a people, it is safe to assume that one has entered the twilight of his life. I can tell you from experience that it is difficult to hold a conversation with someone that thinks they already know all there is to know. They hold to their position, no matter how much evidence you produce to the contrary, and Nicodemus’s going to Christ, even if it was at night, denotes the fact that he was a man willing to listen, and to learn.
The most important thing a man can ever do throughout his existence here on earth is to come to Jesus with sincerity of heart, and be willing to obey. When we come to Jesus, with our cares and our burdens, with our trials and our frustrations, we never leave empty handed. There is always something there for us; there is always a comfort and a balm.
Even though Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews, and a teacher of Israel, as Christ refers to him further along in this passage, he was not ashamed to come to Jesus personally, even though he came at night. It matters not when we come to Jesus, what time of the day or night it might be, as long as we come to Him, as long as we desire to know the truth, to receive the life, and pursue the way.
What stuck out for me in Nicodemus’s first few words, was the fact that he was not alone in his knowledge of the fact that Jesus was a teacher come from God, and that God was with Him. ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Nicodemus referred not only to himself, but also to the other Pharisees in the Sanhedrin with which he associated, as possessing the knowledge that Jesus was more than a mere man. This man who was a ruler among his kind, a Pharisee among Pharisees acknowledges, perhaps inadvertently so, that the other members of the Sanhedrin were aware of Christ’s power, and the fact that God was with Him, yet for some unexplained reason they would not speak this publicly.
When one is aware of the truth, yet is unwilling to submit to it, they become their own worst enemy, warring against themselves. There are few things more destructive then the active denial of a truth, simply because of self-interest, or selfish motivations. Such a man not only ends up destroying himself, but others around him as well.
No man poses a greater danger for his fellow man than the one who knowing the truth chooses to walk the path of deception, who having seen light chooses the way of darkness, who having known life, succumbs to the allure of death and destruction. Such a man only serves to lead others to destruction, willingly and knowingly committing the most grievous sin of keeping those who wander in the darkness from the light of God’s truth and word. This is why the day of judgment will be so tragic for so many who call themselves leaders, and shepherds of men, because they will not only be called to account for their actions, for themselves personally, but also for those who they should have led to green pastures, to the truth, to the light, and to the life that is found only in Christ Jesus.
The Pharisees knew Jesus was special, they knew He was of God, and that God was with Him, because even the biggest doubters could not deny the presence of the divine in Christ, yet they chose to stifle the truth, to reject what their eyes saw, and what their ears heard, because to acknowledge these things would mean confronting their own preconceived notions, and dispelling many long held beliefs. Among the many, there was one, who desired to know truth even at the cost of reassessing his entire belief structure, and that man came to know Christ in greater measure than most can hope to know Him.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Thank you Mike. I can relate to this because I found myself "reassessing my entire belief structure" too, even years after being born again. I remember my eyes being opened to an aspect of Yahweh I had not seen before, and I realized I had to step over a line of obedience that might leave me alone and result in being shut out of some religious circles I was part of. I didn't tell everyone at first, just as Nicodemus went to Jesus at night, not because I was ashamed, but because I didn't want anyone to try to dissuade me until I fully understood what I was seeing.