II. Visit by Night

Nicodemus grumbled to himself as he left the Sanhedrin, constantly pulling on his beard. He only greeted his close friends, before heading towards home. It was that Jesus of Nazareth. The high priests were indignant about what had happened at the temple that morning. Nicodemus had been there. He’d seen the young Man enter, followed by several others and look around the temple. He could see the color rise in the face as an angry frown replaced the smile that had been on the Nazarene’s face only a minute before. Jesus angrily strode into the temple courts and stopped, staring around at the churning, bargaining masses in the Court of the Gentiles. Then the old teacher watched him bend and pick up a piece of rope dropped by one of the merchants. With deft movements the carpenter split open one end of the rope and turned it into a whip. Then he strode up to the table of a money changer, who was just counting out coins for one of the worshippers. Astonishment washed over his face as suddenly the table vanished from in front of him and flew across the way into another one. In an instant the whole court was in confusion as Jesus of Nazareth overturned tables, tore open the pens of sacrificial animals and broke the cages of doves. The whip in his hand whistled over the heads of the animals and they stampeded towards the gates. The Nazarene’s voice thundered through the temple.

“Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!“9 Nicodemus then joined some of the other Pharisees and priests that shouldered their way through the crowds. They halted in front of the angry young Man.

“What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?“10 a priest demanded. Jesus looked at him critically, yet lovingly.

“Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.“11 Nicodemus couldn’t suppress a smile as he heard another priest’s answer.

“It has taken forty-six years to build this temple and you are going to raise it again in three days?!“12 The crowd dispersed, chuckling at the insanity of this young man, but as Nicodemus walked home from the Sanhedrin, he couldn’t help but admire Jesus. Here was one man who was willing to stand up against the corrupt government of the Sadducees. That was a blow in their face and should put Jesus up several notches in any Pharisee’s rating. The rabbi thought of the rumors of miracles worked by this man. He smiled to himself as he thought of the water turned to wine at Nathanael’s wedding, that Malachi had told him about. There was so much that puzzled him about this man. The Sadducees were after him now, because of what happened at the temple. His teaching alarmed the Pharisees, because he had an authority that came from his very person, not from the ancient rabbis. I must speak to him, Nicodemus thought to himself.

Shalom13, rabbi,“ he heard someone call. Ah, yes there was Nathan, one of his students.

“Nathan,“ he called, motioning the young man over towards himself.

“Yes, sir?“

“I want you to do something for me. Will you find out where this Jesus of Nazareth is staying?“ Nathan’s eyes grew wide.

“Jesus of Nazareth?“

“You heard me, Nathan, now please go.“ The young man gaped at his teacher for another moment, before scuttling off into the crowd. That’s likely to stir up some questions in him, Nicodemus thought with a smile.

• • •

Evening found the rabbi sitting on his roof, looking out over the city. Out there, somewhere Jesus of Nazareth was, with answers to the questions that Nicodemus had. Could he be the Messiah? Nicodemus suddenly found himself wondering. Could it really be that the Kingdom of Heaven is near? How can I enter the Kingdom? There was only one way to find out. To go out into the shadows and visit Jesus, hoping that no one would notice. If they found out it would cause a stir among his friends, but even if they knew, no one would be able to call him a coward for going when it was dark, him the ultimate night-owl, who had often sat and discussed with Gamaliel until the sun came up. I’ll go, he finally decided, but first he changed his rich robes for some simpler ones he kept for traveling. At least this way I won’t be noticed so easily. With that he let himself out of a side door and disappeared into the night.

• • •

Nicodemus was more than surprised by the young rabbi, Jesus, son of Joseph. There was no way to feel disdain for this man who stood before him, with a calm, welcoming gaze. He was dressed in the customary style of Galilee and his callused hands clearly showed that he was used to work. His hair and beard were trimmed short, but still made Nicodemus involuntarily think of the wild Baptizer. It seemed that this man’s mouth was quick to smile and his eyes sparkled in a way that the older man had never seen before. Wisdom was there, also love and knowledge. There was something about him that made Nicodemus instantly wonder, Could he be the Messiah? But then he changed his mind. Even if he is, I’d better be careful. No need in starting any crazy rumors.

“Rabbi,“ he began slowly, “we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.“14 Jesus looked into his eyes gently and smiled. It came easily and strangely warmed the older man’s heart.

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.“15 Nicodemus suddenly was shocked. Can he read my mind? What does he mean by born again?

“How can a person be born when he is old?“ Nicodemus wondered, pulling on his beard. “He can’t enter again into his mother’s womb to be born, can he?!“16 Preposterous!

“I tell you the truth,“ Jesus continued gently, “No one can enter the kingdom of God  unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. Don’t be surprised that I said, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases and you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.17 That is how it is with everyone who has been born of the Spirit.“18 The older teacher shook his head and pulled on his beard. I don’t get this, he told himself. How come I can’t get into the Kingdom by the works prescribed by the law? What is all this about being born of the Spirit?

“How is all this possible?“19 exploded from him in frustration. Jesus sighed and looked at him a bit sadly and maybe even a bit frustrated.

“You’re the teacher of Israel, and yet you don’t understand this?“ There was a tone of resignation in the young Rabbi’s voice. “I tell you the truth, we speak of things we know and testify about what we have seen — yet you people still don not accept what we say! I’ve told you about earthly things and you don’t believe. How then will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?“20 Jesus sighed and continued in a gentler tone, as one used in speaking to a frightened child.

“No one has risen into heaven except the one who came down from heaven — the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up. And whoever believes in him will receive eternal life. For God loved the world so much, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life...“21

  • 9. Jn. 2:16
  • 10. Jn. 2:18
  • 11. Jn.2:19
  • 12. Jn. 2:20
  • 13. “Peace be with you”, a Hebrew greeting/
  • 14. Jn. 3:2
  • 15. Jn. 3:3
  • 16. Cheney, Johnston M. and Stanley Ellisen, Th.D., The Greatest Story, Sisters, OR, USA: Multnomah Books, 1994. p. 50.
  • 17. Jn. 3:5-8a
  • 18. Cheney & Ellisen, op. cit., p. 50.
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Ibid.