Now there was a Pharisee,
a man named Nicodemus
who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.
He came to Jesus at night and said…
However you come, it’s good enough.
Whatever you bring, Jesus welcomes you.
Nicodemus is a fool and a coward, and when he shows up at Jesus’ door at 1AM with his face covered so he won’t be recognized, draped in the trappings of his institutional power, asking silly questions and shifting nervously –
Jesus is just delighted to see him.
Jesus is tickled that Nicodemus showed up at all.
“You will seek Me and find Me
when you seek with your whole heart.”
I used to hear it as a threat, not a promise.
“Seek with your whole heart and you’ll find Me! Otherwise, good luck!”
I’m never seeking God with my whole heart.
I’m always clinging to unholy parts of myself, selfishness that lurks in the corners of my life.
But Scripture is full of fools and failures and cowards and thieves showing up, as they are, with the baggage they have, and God is just delighted that they’re there.
We focus on Nicodemus’ silly questions without noticing that Jesus answered them.
We focus on Nicodemus’ fearfulness without seeing that Jesus welcomed him.
We focus on our weakness, instead of the strength of the welcome of Christ that can’t be stopped by any of our weakness or cowardice.
My loves, come with whatever you have.
Come and pray prayers that are mostly cuss words.
Come and tell God that you don’t have words to pray, and know that telling God that is prayer, too.
Come and tell Jesus that you aren’t really sure you want to come.
Come as a coward and come as a fool.
Bring your greed and your selfishness and your pride and your cowardice and show up at the midnight door to a God who would rather we were with Him than good.
I don’t need Jesus for my courage and my kindness and my cleverness and my warmth, although many days, I am brave and courageous and kind and clever.
I need Jesus when I feel stupid and afraid.
I need a Jesus who waits up, fingers crossed that Nicodemus will show up at 1AM, hoping against hope for that scared knock on the door.
I need a Jesus for my silly prayers and half-assed offerings.
I need a Jesus who answers my questions all night, even when my questions are obvious and I don’t ask with the best of intentions.
Today, September 14th, is the Feast of the Holy Cross, a celebration of the Cross of Christ.
On the Feast of the Holy Cross we remember that our God is not a far-away God who can’t sympathize with our weakness. Our God worked in construction and was homeless and wasn’t always popular, and died commonly on two pieces of wood.
And who showed up with sacred myrrh to His tomb?
At the Cross, that cowardly man finally, fully, bravely – showed up.
So he came and took the body of Jesus.
who at first came to Jesus by night,
also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes,
about a hundred pounds.
We think that we need to get it together before we pray. We think that our prayers have to be complete before we start speaking. We think that we can only come to God once we’re ready to give it all away. We think that before we knock, we need to bring with us the courage to follow Jesus down the hard road of discipleship.
But we knock before we have the courage. We come before we have the faith.
We don’t need to bring courage to Christ. The welcome of Christ is what gives us courage.
We come and tell Jesus there is no way I can possibly give it all up. And Jesus looks at us like He looked at the rich young ruler, and Jesus loves us, even in our weakness and even in our fear.
“I do not understand the mystery of Grace,” Anne Lamott writes, “only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” The mystery of the Cross is a fearful Nicodemus, transformed by the welcome of Christ into someone brave enough to show up at a fly-ridden, blood-soaked execution site, losing his money and his reputation to follow a Crucified Christ.
It all starts at 1AM, in our cowardice and foolishness.
However you come, it’s good enough.
When I count the cost, I don’t have enough.
Give me your hand, Brother Nicodemus, and we can go on together –
gentle cowards coming half-heartedly at midnight,
who don’t seek with our whole hearts,
but find Him anyway.