In the Gospel of John, there are many interesting stories recorded . . . and the one in Chapter 3 certainly should not be missed. It is a fascinating story . . . the personal story of a man of rank and authority, serving in what was viewed as a respectable station of life . . . he was a man of some means and he was mature. Yet, in spite of all of that, in his innermost parts, he really didn’t know who he was, what he really believed, or actually how he had even arrived at this place . . . or in his high office.
This man, along with his collogues, had heard about Jesus and the amazing things he had been doing and saying throughout Israel. Some of the man’s associates felt threatened by Jesus and immediately began to stand in opposition to him, but this man and a few others developed a curiosity about Jesus. The man in the story is named Nicodemus. He wore the garments of his office and was held in high regard by those he encountered on the streets and in the marketplace. He was a leader in Israel . . . was viewed by the common folks as knowing about God and the Law as given by Moses. Yet, as the story develops, it becomes evident that he didn’t believe that he really knew those important things . . . and he didn’t even know who he was, or how he had ended up at this place in life.
He goes seeking to find Jesus one evening. Many preachers throughout history have made a compelling argument about why this man visited Jesus after dark. Nevertheless, he finds Jesus and asks the question that has been haunting him . . . his question: What is it that I must do to be allowed to enter heaven when my life on earth comes to an end?
The question is a haunting question and Jesus’ answer put the cookies on a shelf low enough where most anyone of average intelligence can reach them. Jesus answered that “one must be born again” . . . explaining that there are two births . . . one physical and the other spiritual. Jesus’ answer was so perplexing to this religious leader that he asked some rather foolish questions. Jesus asked him, “Are you a teacher and you don’t know these things?” . . . Jesus asked that question because he knew deep in Nicodemus’ heart he wrestled with the prominence of the office he held . . . and the large hole inside himself . . . always troubled over who he was, who God is, and how he might make peace with God.
When I read this story of Nicodemus, I think of him as a boy growing up and his mom and the folks in the neighborhood calling him ‘little Nicky.’ I think the evening he visited Jesus, that little Nicky was front-and-center . . . his life had just developed sort of naturally and he found himself at a place and station . . . and he likely was not even sure how it had all come to be . . . just the result of family connections, circumstances, events, and a few choices along the way.
There was another fellow who also held that same office (a Pharisee) a few years later who had the same struggle. His name was Saul and his home was in Tarsus and was thus known as Saul of Tarsus. His story of coming face-to-face with that huge hole in his life is recorded in Acts 9. Saul had found success in office by doing what he thought was expected of him by his peers, but deep within he knew there was something terribly wrong. In Acts 26, he would relate his experience of coming face-to-face with the reality of his situation, his behavior, and the truth revealed and said that Jesus told him “it is hard to kick against the goad” . . . meaning his own conscience . . . what he really knew was missing in his life.
When I see folks in various stations in the life experience, and I know what they are peddling in error, I wonder if they really even know what they truly believe or how they arrived at that place. One such person is the pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The current pope is the 266th pope who selected the name of Pope Francis . . . in honor of Francis of Assisi. He is assigned the title Holy Father . . . and is reported to be “THE vicar of Christ” . . . meaning Christ’s earthly representative. I am certain that man . . . deep in his heart . . . knows that he has missed something serious . . . wonders if those who held the office before him struggled with the same gaps with which he struggles . . . and knows that he is caught in a trap . . . and must remain there to save face.
A few years back, a prominent preacher and head of a large church and university, climbed up into a bell-tower on the campus of his school and announced to his flock that God had told him if the flock failed to deliver $1,000,000 to him, then he would die. It seems clear to me that dude knew the truth in his heart as he laid on that floor and said that goofy stuff.
I am reminded of a man named Pontus Pilate . . . a Roman governor who presided over a hearing on Jesus. That man knew the truth . . . his wife warned him about a dream she had the night before . . . yet he maintained the status quo . . . and did what he believed his office required of him . . . in spite of knowing the truth about himself and the truth about Jesus.
Perhaps the time has come for you to confront the truth . . . about who you are . . . and that void in your life. Be wise . . . be prudent . . . life is about choices and decisions made.