Nicodemas, the scholar, and Joseph of Arimathea sat together in Nicodemas’s study. With them were five other leaders of the Pharisees who had expressed genuine interest in the teachings of Jesus. Unwilling to let the chief priests or any of the other leaders know of their curiosity about the Galilean teacher, they met in secret. All of them were listening intently to a report being made by one of Nicodemas’s servants.
“Could it have been thunder, Tobias?” Joseph asked.
“No, Rabbi Joseph,” the servant answered earnestly. “I heard it with my own ears, and so did everyone around me! When Jesus prayed out loud, asking God to glorify His name, a voice—a loud voice from heaven, answered Him. The voice said, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ It was terrifying!”
Looking at Nicodemas, Tobias asked in fear, “Master, can a man hear the voice of God and live?”
“You did,” the teacher returned matter-of-factly.
“Oh…yes,” Tobias answered sheepishly.
“So then what did Jesus say?” Eber of Lachish pressed anxiously.
Thinking hard, Tobias answered, “He said that the voice from heaven was for us and not for Him. He said that judgment was coming on the world. He said it like it was happening now, and He said that, because of the judgment, the ruler of this world will be cast out.”
“That could be the Roman emperor!” Elias, another Pharisee, said excitedly.
“Or it could be Satan,” Nicodemas added, waving his hand to indicate Tobias should continue.
“Then He said that He would draw all people to Himself when He was lifted up from the earth.”
“Wait…Jesus said something like that to you when you first met Him,” Joseph said to his friend.
“Yes,” Nicodemas returned thoughtfully. “What was it? ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.’”
“But what does He mean ‘to be lifted up’?” asked Matthan of Gibeah.
Nicodemas gave this question some consideration. Speaking his thoughts out loud, he said, “Moses lifted up the bronze serpent on a pole.”
“If Jesus were lifted up on a pole that would be…CRUCIFIXION!” Joseph gasped. “But that can’t be! I’ve always understood that when the Messiah came, He was to be with us forever!” Most of the others in the small group nodded their heads in agreement.
“Well, the Teacher has referred to being beaten and killed before,” the scholar replied.
“Yes, but I thought that was just another one of His allegories,” Joseph returned.
“What else did He say, Tobias?” Nicodemas asked.
“There was one last thing He said. It was right before He disappeared.”
“Disappeared?” Elias questioned.
“Yes, Rabbi! He spoke His final words, then He and His followers walked into the temple, but when the rest of us tried to follow, they were gone, and no one could find them.”
“But what did He say, Tobias?” Nicodemas asked irritably.
“The last thing He talked about was light and darkness. He said that we would have the light for a little while longer and that we should walk in the light while we could, so that the darkness wouldn’t overtake us. He said that, if you walk in the darkness, then you don’t know where you are going. Isn’t that obvious, master?”
“I think He means spiritual darkness,” Nicodemas explained.
“So what is this light He’s talking about?” Tobias asked.
“He’s referring to Himself,” Joseph answered as the thought suddenly came to him. “I’ve heard Him say, ‘I am the light of the world.’”
“What does that mean?” Simon the Bethlehemite asked. “How can He be light?”
In response to these questions, Joseph turned to look at the scholar.
“Well, let’s think about what He’s said,” Nicodemas began. “Jesus claims to have come from God. He has also claimed that all of His words are from God.”
“So Jesus is light because He has come to reveal God’s words to us?” Joseph asked.
After thinking for a moment, Nicodemas responded, “It may be more than that. Not only did He say that He spoke only the Father’s words, but He also said that He is here to do the works of the Father. I think that when Jesus says He is the light of the world, He is saying that He came to reveal not just God’s words, but God Himself.”
“So walking in the light must mean living our lives trusting in all that Jesus reveals to us about God,” Elias thought out loud.
“Yes,” agreed the scholar.
“So if Jesus is the light,” Tobias felt prompted to ask again, “what is the darkness?”
“Everything that is not Him,” Nicodemas answered. They all had to think about that for a moment.
“There’s a lot of people in darkness,” Tobias concluded.
“If the Messiah has truly come to us,” Simon asked, “then why hasn’t everyone believed in Him?”
“That is actually prophesied about,” Nicodemas said as he searched through his notes on the table in front of him. “I wrote down these quotes from Isaiah. ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ And in another place the prophet says, ‘He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes and perceive with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’
“So you see,” Nicodemas continued, “many are unwilling to believe, and God has hidden His light from them.”
“Well, we aren’t blind are we?” Matthan asked, looking at the other religious leaders in the room. “I mean, we see what the Teacher’s saying, right?” All the others slowly nodded their heads in agreement. All eyes turned to the older scholar.
“What about you, Nicodemas?” Joseph asked. “Do you think Jesus is the Messiah?”
The scholar was thoughtful for several long moments. Finally, looking at his friends, he said, “It is one thing to accept that Jesus is the Messiah. It is another to confess that conviction publicly. Are each of you ready to declare yourselves to be followers of the Nazarene?”
The others were stunned at the question.
“NICODEMAS, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?”
“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?”
“YOU KNOW WE CAN’T DO THAT!”
“THEY’LL KICK US OUT OF THE SYNAGOGUES IF WE DO!”
“WE’D BE THROWING AWAY OUR CAREERS…AND OUR FUTURES!”
The old scholar smiled at the others.
“Don’t fool yourselves, my friends,” Nicodemas responded. “We have seen the light, but we are still standing in the darkness.”
“What do you mean?” Simon asked, a little offended.
“To say we believe in Him while remaining unwilling to follow Him is not walking in the light. It’s looking at the light while hiding in the darkness. What we believe about Jesus has no meaning until our faith motivates us to take a stand for Him.”
By Alan W. Harris
(Inspired by John 12: 33-43)