Nicodemus At The Crossroads
I stood at a crossroads. Who was this young rabbi from Nazareth? Messiah, or fraud? My colleagues dismissed Him an imposter; yet bristled at His every word. One moment, I too, was ready to dismiss Him, and the next, evidence mounted in favor of His Messiahship.
He never incited insurrection, yet spoke of another kingdom.
He claimed He’d come down from Heaven and that God was His Father.
None could refute His miracles.
He changed water into wine by an act of His will, proving His power over the material world. His miraculous healings demonstrated His power over disease and deformity. Most strikingly: demons immediately recognized Him as their nemesis, groveling in His presence.
There was an air of timelessness about Him. He spoke with first-hand knowledge of the primordial, and acts of creation. He referred to Abraham, Moses and David as contemporaries and friends.
His profound understanding of Scripture and the matter-of-fact authority with which He taught perplexed me. It was as if He had been its Author.
As I pondered the mounting evidence, a writhing restlessness rose within me. Speaking with Him one-on-one seemed my only recourse. It was an audacious risk. If I was discovered, I could lose everything—family, respectable teaching career, security. However, the restless questions spurred me onward.
I knew where to find Him. Late one night I cinched my black cloak tightly about me and slipped silently into the empty street, keeping to the protective shadows. The night air was cool and damp, my heart thumped. I snaked softly, silently along the empty streets, questioning my decision and rehearsing in my mind, my opening line: “Rabbi, we know You are a teacher sent from God. . . “.
I found Him among the ancient trees of the garden. He was waiting for me and seemed to know why I’d come although I’d not breathed my intentions to a soul. I blurted out my rehearsed opening line. He ignored it, answering the questions I had not asked, yet the very ones writhing within my soul.
‘Who was He—really? What was He all about?’
Leaves rustled overhead. Perplexed, I listened intently as He spoke of a re-birth that comes through God’s Spirit, who births a new creation within souls like making them His offspring. I inhaled sharply as understanding seeped into my heart, Jesus was offering a whole new life.
The wind played among the leaves and Jesus glanced upward, bringing my eyes with His, “Reborn souls are like the wind, Nicodemus. They are moved by the unseen force of God’s Spirit.”
My soul quaked with discovery, struggling to take in all He meant. Then He pivoted; I was jolted. He spoke of being “lifted up”, a euphemism for crucifixion. He cited Moses ‘lifting up” the serpent in the desert, an account we all knew well. (Numbers 24:1-9) ‘Messiah, “lifted up”? Why?’
He referred to Himself as the Light from Heaven, shining into our dark world.
He had not come to condemn or destroy, He said, but to save the world through Himself. Again, He referenced this rebirth. Our rebirth was linked to His crucifixion– like a sacrifice. ‘Sacrifice–like the Passover Lamb?’
In an instant, I saw it!
My mind was spinning. ‘The Passover lamb must be untainted. Jesus was clearly human, yet always claimed God as His Father. If God was His Father, He would be of divine origin, unblemished by the original curse. His sacrifice would indeed pay mankind’s debt in full. Divinity is unaffected by death, so He could emerge victorious from death’s grip. It would be God in human flesh paying the price with holy blood.’
Dumbfounded, I stared at Him slack-jawed. Holy Omniscience stared back, unwavering. My thoughts were stripped bare before Him—we both knew it. I rose, half-stumbling backward. My breath caught in my throat; I could only gape at Him. He smiled at me, turned and disappeared among trees and shadows.
I slipped silently home through the empty streets and lay staring into the darkness. Everything I’d been taught since boyhood was now in question. Our conversation tumbled about in my mind. My thoughts raced wildly through the Law and Prophets.
‘The Spirit of God breathed His pneuma into the lifeless form of Adam lying upon the ground in Eden, and he became a living soul—the same pneuma empowering this rebirth of which Jesus spoke—like the wind rustling among the garden’s trees.’
Ancient prophecies rose to testify:
Prophesies aligned; images converged upon Jesus as Messiah.
The coming One, Who would crush the serpent’s head. (Genesis 3:15)
The prophet like Moses, speaking only what He hears from His Father. (Deuteronomy 18:17-19)
The Suffering Servant—”lifted up”. The Passover Lamb—slain for us. (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53)
I stood, once again, at the same crossroad. Down one, a path, glowed with brilliant light. Truth pressed hard against my defenses– truth so new, yet so ancient. It was so strange, yet made perfect sense. This path meant risking everything– family, respected career, security—everything for the truth and eternal salvation.
Down the opposite pathway, lay prestige, respectability, wealth—while peddling a lie. I could make a fine living from the Scriptures, yet never take them to heart. I would sell my soul for respectability and security, personifying the “whitewashed tombs” He called us. This path may promise ease, but it also promised eternal death.
I had seen the truth. It was also costly; I was hesitant to pay that price. I hovered there, at the crossroads of indecision. Truth drew me; security and status jerked me back.
His crossroads is ours as well, indecisively hanging between one path and another, hovering in a holding pattern of uncertainty. We hope somehow to avoid the risks of both paths, while simultaneously reaping the benefits of both. However, like Nicodemus, all we gain is the same tug-of-war in our soul.
Truth beckons. Is it worth the price? Will we rise and follow? Decision awaits.