John 7:40-53 We find Nicodemus in the scripture today. He subtly stands up for Christ in this story. His question, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”
Nicodemus is using the law to try to save Christ, yet he seems a little hesitant to do this. Nicodemus appears three times in the Gospel of John. He first appears asking Jesus what it means to be born again in Jesus. Jesus gives Nicodemus something to think about when he tells him we must be born of water and Spirit. We next hear from him in the story above where he seems to be working through what Jesus had told him previously in John. He tries to buy Jesus some time by using the law to question the other Pharisees and chief priests. Lastly, Nicodemus appeared at the foot of the cross. Joseph of Arimathea (another secret believer in Christ) and Nicodemus take Jesus’ body down from the cross and prepare the body according to Jewish tradition.
Nicodemus practices what I like to call a “sitting on the sideline” kind of faith. He sits on the bench watching and waiting for his moment. Sitting on the bench isn’t a bad thing unless you find yourself stuck there for life. As far as I know, we don’t hear much about Nicodemus after these three times in John. I am not sure what he ended up doing with this new found faith in Christ. Did he become a disciple? Did he continue to stay quiet about his belief?
I have been Nicodemus many times in my life. I have found myself quietly witnessing amazing disciples do Christ’s work. I have taken the time to learn from each of them, making mistakes, and practicing hard to be more like those disciples. Sitting on the sideline taught me the techniques of sharing Christ’s light. It was a time of listening and learning – not necessarily a time of action.
I have also been stuck on the sidelines. Instead of watching and learning, I became angry and filled with self-pity that I wasn’t the one playing the game. I have found my heart hardened to what was going on around me. My bitterness caused large amounts of sin to build up in my soul, and inaction became my middle name. Inaction became my life.
When we allow inaction to take over our life as a disciple – what we are all called to be – then we become afraid to make a move. This fear paralyzes us. It is not what God wants for any of us – ever.
We are called when we are baptized to be followers of Christ, but at the same time, leaders of faith. We are called to action.
Sitting on the sidelines is okay for a time, but at some point we have to stand up and shout out God’s message. We can no longer be afraid about life. We must prepare for that moment that our coach calls us into the game.
Yesterday, I watched Pope Francis give a powerful message on sitting back in fear. He read the scripture from Matthew about Jesus and the disciples on the boat when a large storm arose. The disciples were scared and anxious. They came to Christ in fear – asking Him – do you not love us? Aren’t you going to do something? Christ was heartbroken that they had so little faith. They still allowed fear to overcome them even when He was right there in there presence.
When we sit on the sidelines, we need to be aware, alert, and ready for anything. At any moment we may be called in to play the game. We have to know everything that is going on, and how to handle in-the-moment decisions. Fear cannot block us from doing this. After all, our coach is Christ. He will direct us, especially in the heat of the moment. He will be by our side even in the roughest storms. He will calm the storm in our heart if we just allow Him into our soul.