I was thinking about the deepening duality of this moment, with the loyalty offered to Isreal on one hand and the extreme suffering inflicted upon thousands of Palestinian's on the other. A conflict incited by years of hated, now fully manifest by way of Hamas, soon possiblly Hezbollah.
Were Jesus to show up with his "woman at the well", good Samaritan approach, I have to wonder if "sides" as we humans tend to take, would ever enter his mind.
The following thoughts and words may get me in trouble with my more fundamentalist friends, but so be it. Seems that was always the case, "the way" with this Jewish carpenter's son. And, as I understand his instructions were, as captured in the King's language, "Walk ye in it!"
At 75, I am beginning to struggle with my theological schooling, maybe that's the norm, as it seemed the case with both John the Baptist and Nicodemus.
John's birth name was discerned by way of angelic appearance in the very temple where his father, Zachariah served as priest. I can only imagine the difficulty of his journey, as he matured and later departed the religion known to him during his childhood. In fact, he struggled right up to the time he was beheaded, as evidenced by his words, "“Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” Luke 7:17-19 (NASB)"
Nicodemus, who had even more to lose than John, given his positional authority, had his theological knees cut out from under him when told, "unless you are born again, you'll never see the Kingdom of God." (Paraphrase mine).
I'm sure this was an awkward moment given his lifetime of temple service, his religious security blanket until then, the fervent keeping of the law. Let alone his growing, though likely reluctant relationship with this temple threatening cousin of the then wilderness preacher, John.
However, something of both of these mavericks had captured his soul, evident in his later request that Jesus' body be placed in his own tomb. Good trouble always follows those sincere in their search for truth.
As a ruler in the synagogue, Nicodemus' mindset likely carried a similar hope to that of John the Baptist. His however based upon rigid keeping of hundreds of commandments, as well as offering all the required sacrifices, sabbaths fully kept, while awaiting the promised day when Isreal would be free once more from the politics of Rome.
In his mind, a Messiah would one day come out of the root of David, the Branch spoken of by the prophets. Could this be Him?
John had already broken out of the "corporate church" world, seperating himself from the legalistic religious folk that he was raised among. "Brude of vipers" he now called them, by then convinced of his cousin's Kingdom. This Kingdom ordered differently than the politics of Rome or Isreal could ever provide!
John, though a little gruff with his words, was apparently in touch with the Spirit, sufficient for his heart to leap forward prophetically on day.
Suddenly seized upon by the Spirit, pointing out the "the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of this world," just as Jesus approached his quite novel wilderness water baptism event.
John, perhaps waist deep, his camel hair drenched, cries out that it was he who needed to be baptized! He was now full-in with this new Jesus movement!
As I write, my own heart yearns again for such moments, as I have had a few!
Maybe I get in my head too much as I read scripture, attempting to align the significance of these Biblical characters with my own journey and today's current events. Why else would one repeatedly read this ancient text, words that for some reason have held my curiosity, even my very soul for 75 years!
The Middle East events of this last week have driven a new wedge into the world of religion, one that has global implications, none peaceful.
In such moments, I find myself open to instruction as per my theology, similar I'm sure to the aforementioned men, especially given the bias, fear and at times, sheer hate being expressed across our globe.
Sometimes, like John the Baptist, though himself raised in the temple, I just want to remove myself from corporate Christianity. Yet then, like Nicodemus, I have benefited from the core beliefs of my forefathers, and have known moments of otherwise unexplainable blessing and miraculous intervention.
These next few days will be quite revealing for me I'm sure, as for all the Body of Christ. Stay open!