Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Saint Nicodemus & Saint Joseph of Arimathea


"Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.He came to Jesus at night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him."Jesus answered and said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?" Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, 'You must be born from above.'"
Nicodemus was a studious and careful man and not given to flights of fancy, this is one of the reasons he was a respected body of the Sanhedrin, a well learned Pharisee. Which is why this man Jesus troubled him, perplexed him and soon enough, Nicodemus had to meet this mysterious man.
Though Nicodemus was curious to meet this man, Jesus, who had enacted amazing miracles, who preached that through Him sins are forgiven, who told of the Kingdom to come, and had embraced the downcasts and outcasts of society, still Nicodemus had his reputation to consider, what if he were seen to be speaking to a blasphemer, the repercussions would tarnish his good name perhaps beyond redemption?
Therefore Nicodemus played it careful, he went to see this man Jesus under cover of darkness in order to see for himself the claims that Jesus was making, could this be the Son of God? Though Nicodemus managed to speak with Jesus without being noticed he was left feeling even more confused than before upon listening to what Jesus had to say to his queries. Nicodemus probably spent the rest of the time studying the Torah and also watching and listening to Jesus from a distance, for what separated Jesus and Nicodemus was not distance but belief.
What Nicodemus was hearing meant an enormous revolution, a revolution of ultimate love and redemption not through our means but through God. Nicodemus was also a man torn apart as he realised that in order to embrace Jesus as the Son of God, he must leave his old safe life, a life he had built up over many years which had gained the respect of his contemporaries. How could he leave all that he had accrued over the years, the friends he had made within the Sanhedrin, and all for what exactly?
Nicodemus was a troubled man, for though he was a learned Pharisee he was not a hypocrite and he knew within his heart of hearts what he saw and heard, and slowly he began to live the Word he heard, 'born again'.

"Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down....After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by."
Like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea had built up a solid reputation and had become a respectable Pharisee, well learned and just like Nicodemus, he too had a lot to lose if this man Jesus was simply yet another puff of wind, here today and gone tomorrow. So Joseph also followed Jesus in secret so as to observe this man and to then study the Torah seeking answers to the question lodged within his heart of hearts. What drove Joseph most though was fear of his contemporaries, as the whispers within the Sanhedrin would soon become a roar for the blood of Jesus, Son of God. So Joseph listened in secret to the Words of Jesus as he drew closer and closer to Jesus in the safe cocoon of anonymity. Like Nicodemus, Joseph knew that to openly support Jesus would bring down all the work he had spent a life time building, and to also be deserted by his 'friends' within the Sanhedrin, what was Joseph to do? Just as with Nicodemus, Joseph was not a hypocrite, but he was a careful man who had acquired vast wealth through shrewd and honest business dealings.
Though Jesus spent three years in Ministry to preach the Kingdom of God to all who would listen, working alongside his twelve Apostles, yet at the end of His life as Jesus breathed his last breath only one Apostle stood beneath the Cross. All the others had deserted their beloved Lord and God, but not Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea.
Upon the death of Christ, Joseph with great courage approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus so he could bury him in his own tomb before the Sabbath began. These two men who had kept their distance through fear of the crowds found their courage as the crowds fled their beloved Master. It was Joseph and Nicodemus who alongside Jesus most Holy Mother buried him in a borrowed tomb, Josephs own place of rest. Throughout the Ministry of Jesus both Joseph and Nicodemus had kept their distance through fear, now at the death of the Son of God, both men found that their love of God surpassed their fear of man.
While the Apostles were in disarray Nicodemus and Joseph stepped forward, and lived what they had heard, seekers of the Truth, and understood a religion that kept men enchained by Law was no religion at all but a prison of the soul.
Through the death of Christ, Nicodemus and Joseph found God, for as Jesus had told Nicodemus, "The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." These two men became mighty in spirit through love of the one sent to save all of mankind.
Peace of Christ to ALL
Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

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