On Tuesday, at First Look, we looked ahead to Sunday’s scripture about Nicodemus. You might recall that Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus in the middle of the night because he had some questions. Except Nicodemus didn’t exactly understand anything that Jesus said to him. In fact, it seems like Nicodemus leaves the conversation more baffled and confused than when he entered the conversation.
I have a lot of sympathy for Nicodemus. He comes asking legitimate and honest questions, but Jesus doesn’t exactly offer straightforward answers. And that almost doesn’t seem fair. It’s true that as a Pharisee, Nicodemus should have a better or more comprehensive understanding of scripture and even of the Messiah, but even still, Jesus seems to hold Nicodemus to an almost impossible standard of understanding.
But as I’ve continued to reflect on our conversation at First Look and as I’ve continued my preparations for Sunday, I’ve been struck by Jesus’ response to Nicodemus’ bewilderment.
My expectation is that Jesus would do anything he could to make sure Nicodemus understood his words. After all, Nicodemus was likely to go back and report to the other Pharisees what he learned about Jesus during this midnight conversation.
But that’s the opposite of what Jesus does. Jesus is unphased by Nicodemus’ confusion and he refuses to simplify his explanations. And so, Nicodemus leaves with more questions than answers, even more questions than he started with.
Jesus had no problem leaving Nicodemus confused and muddled. Jesus is okay with Nicodemus leaving their conversation with questions, with things to think about and mull over.
And that might make us a little uncomfortable. So often, I think, we want easy, straight-forward answers. We want things to make sense. And yet, I think faith, or belief, is about more than having the right answers.
In thinking about Nicodemus, author Debie Thomas reflects, “In Christianity after Religion, historian Diana Butler Bass points out that the English word "believe" comes from the German "belieben" — the German word for love. To believe is not to hold an opinion. To believe is to treasure. To hold something beloved. To give my heart over to it without reservation. To believe in something is to invest it with my love.”
A similar idea is echoed throughout scripture, to be faithful isn’t just to surrender to factual truth, but it is to put our confidence in God. To throw our whole hearts, minds, souls, and bodies into God’s hands.
It’s no wonder Nicodemus walked away baffled, Jesus wasn’t calling him to have the right answers, but Jesus was calling him to fall in love with God all over again. Jesus was calling him to begin again.
And there’s nothing easy about that.
Grace and peace,