Short Meditations in John 7: 50. Intervention
Jn 7:50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked,
There is something poignant here, it seems to me, great and glorious, but nevertheless poignant. This man, Nicodemus, is going to stand up for what is right in the face of many who are advocating that which would be wrong. He is a man, John shows us in chapter 3 of his Gospel, who had gone to Jesus at night to satisfy his curiosity. He was a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council, the Sanhedrin. But he was an unusual Pharisee because he wanted to talk to Jesus, not to berate him as so many of them did, but he wanted to reassure himself of what he felt was right: “you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (Jn 3:2) This man, Jesus, has come with God’s calling on his life. That’s as far as he could go, but it was a start.
He is also mentioned, the third time, when after Jesus death, he accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus and he brought expensive the ingredients to embalm Jesus.
But here is what strikes me about Nicodemus: in respect of the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin, “he was one of their own number,” yet one of the few voices raised on behalf of truth. I say truth, because it was not so much on behalf of Jesus as the one he was. He never seems to come quite out into the open for Jesus. Earlier it had been at night he had visited Jesus, and later with Joseph, it had been with an air of secrecy, at least with Joseph “because he feared the Jewish leaders” (Jn 19:38) – and yet Nicodemus is one of those Jewish leaders. Somehow he seems to be straddling two camps – the authorities opposing Jesus and the secret believers in Jerusalem.
Yet, to be fair to him, he is a voice who speaks out for the truth, but yet a voice that is not sufficiently strong that others might have the courage to speak similarly, and so it is a voice that eventually achieves nothing; the opposition is too great.
Failing to speak up for Jesus, or to speak up strongly enough to have impact and change lives and destinies, is not just the prerogative of the Nicodemus’s or Peter’s of this world – or the other disciples for that matter – it is something to which many of us are prone. Have I always spoken up when I should have done? I wish. This is one of those things for which the Cross is our only saving way.
But a failure yesterday doesn’t have to mean a failure today. Can we trust afresh that when we speak it will be the Holy Spirit speaking through us? (Mt 10:19,20) May it be so.