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Shouting Stones: Nicodemus in the Shadows
I left him that clandestine night more confused than before. And yet . . . and yet a connection had been forged between us that I could not shrug off.
And later the rabbi had gotten in trouble with my colleagues, who were upset that he was getting out of hand. The temple police had failed to arrest him, and it was clear that his spell had even taken hold of some of them. Were these temple police, too, deceived? When I tried to speak up, suggesting calmly but a bit nervously to my Pharisaic brethren that the law doesn't judge someone without a proper hearing, they jumped on me, wondering if perhaps I wasn't one of his followers as well.
That was a close one. Clearly, I had to be very careful. I had to cover my tracks. I had to watch my words, lest those in power question me, perhaps even arrest me as a follower of this radical rabbi. Was it worth my life to continue pursuing this mad man?
But what if he was who he claimed to be? What if I missed out on the most important relationship I could ever experience in this or any other life?
Now, darkness has fallen, and the rabbi's enemies have had their way. Jesus has been put to death. I've heard from my friend and colleague, Joseph of Arimathea—another secret follower—that he needs my help. He's asking Pilate for permission to take the man's body, prepare it, and put it in a tomb before the Sabbath comes. We must act quickly before it's too late.
I wonder whether it's really wise to help. Emotions stir violently in me. I fear what might happen if I'm found out. I grieve the loss of this Jesus, this amazing teacher and healer, this one who more than anyone else has provoked my heart. This friend of mine has been put to death violently. He did not deserve this.
But what could I have done about it? Could I have said more, or would it only have meant my own destruction?
And yet, wouldn't it have been worth my very life to stand with him, to speak out for him? To come out of the shadows and identify myself as his? To end the secrecy, and to live authentically? Wouldn't it matter more than anything now for me to help spread the word about this amazing man—this Messiah—and to touch others in need in his name?
As these questions whirl painfully around my mind, I gather the burial spices, the myrrh and aloes, and the linen cloths. It is certainly a heavy load to carry, but I must hurry and meet Joseph and get the broken body. Right now, I must do this. I can struggle with my questions later. Perhaps tomorrow, after the Sabbath.
Or Sunday. Yes, perhaps by Sunday I'll have some clarity about what to do next.
[Passages referenced: John 3:1-21, 7:40-52, 19:38-42]
Peter Wallace is an author and host of the Day1 radio program.