resurrection bonus

October 10, 2004 | 1 Comment

I had the opportunity to teach about the story of Nicodemus from John 3:1-21 this weekend. There are lots of fascinating things going on in this passage that I never noticed before, but one in particular stood out to me.

John ends this narrative without at all describing Nicodemus’ response to Jesus. The story ends with Jesus talking for twelve verses. Next thing we know, Jesus and the disciples are whisking away to another place, and we can just assume a perplexed Nicodemus goes home to ponder all that Jesus said.

Fortunately, that’s not the last we hear of Nicodemus. We hear of him two more times in the gospel of John. In John 7:45-52, we read how Nicodemus mildly rose to the defense of Jesus in a meeting of the chief priests and Pharisees. That story alone has some intriguing stuff going on, but…

The most interesting mention of Nicodemus comes from John 19:38-42. Nicodemus basically goes against his peers to show great respect for Jesus by publicly stepping out to care for his body. I was familiar with this response from Nicodemus, but here is what I never had thought of before. Nicodemus puts everything about his current life at risk to take care of the body of a dead rebel rabbi. I think it’s safe to say that Nicodemus, like Joseph, was making public the fact that he was choosing to follow the teaching of this rabbi that he had perhaps been secretly following for quite sometime. This is before Jesus rose again! There is no reason to believe that Nicodemus was anticipating the resurrection. From what he saw of the life and death of Jesus, that was enough to stir him to follow. The resurrection a few days later was simply a bonus! (I think this fits in quite well with Conrad Gempf’s recent entry on the importance of the death of Jesus as well.)

Too often, I believe, Christians simply live out their faith because of the promise of a reward in heaven someday. We simply tolerate this world until heaven. What if that hope was taken away? Would Jesus still be worth following? Would we see so much value in trying to live as he did that we wouldn’t imagine living any other way?

  • If that hope was taken away and we just followed him as an exmample to live life by; I think there would be far less Christians, but those that were Christians would be more authetnic, passionate, and devoted to the teachings of Christ. There would be more examination of why Christ lived the way he did and on his teachings. There would be more conversions based on trying to find one’s inner self, or a richer meaning, into life.

    There would be no more of the “what’s in it for me” or “better then those unsaved sinner” Christians; and there would be no more evanglism using heaven as a giant attraction or hell as a scare tactic.

    Of course there is a lot more to all this, and a lot to agree and conflict with both on theological and personal levels, but I have no desire to get into that. This was just my surfact level examining of how the situation would be.

    And by the way John, I thought of this while sitting at Starbucks with an ice water 🙂