113- The Nicodemus Hug All Day
“How can these things be?” naturally flowed from his lips without any thought, his mind racing to build a concrete mental vision of the words of Jesus. Spirit, water, wind—I’ve spent my lifetime studying the Torah and this guy is so outside of the box, but it’s real. He’s real. God, what do I do? Nicodemus took the time to seek Jesus of Nazareth at night, concealed by the cloak of darkness, away from the pressure of his colleagues. But now he cannot fall back on his knowledge of Torah or the Prophets, it his words and these new images that Jesus is expounding on; mysteries of YHVH. Unable to formulate an exact theology his mind was trained to rely on, he utters a response that binds his heart to that of Jesus, yet for reasons unknow to us, prevent him from boldly stepping into the unknown as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Three years we read about in our Bibles—nomadic, powerful, counter cultural, yet life-giving ministry. Can you imagine being one of the disciples of Jesus? Nicodemus might have toiled over an invitation but ultimately turned it down and remained a minor character in the greatest story ever told.
Episode seven of season one of The Chosen came to an abrupt end with Matthew’s inquisitive facial expression imprinted on your mind and I sat, eyes still swollen on the verge of actual tears. Moments before, Nicodemus and Jesus’ conversation at night closed with Nicodemus recognizing that Jesus was indeed the son of God, but was unable to let go of his comfortable lifestyle to become a wandering nomad with a band of misfits. He sobs at the thought of being so close, his heart tearing in two over the decision presented. Jesus, full of compassion and understanding wraps his arms around Nicodemus, while the great Pharisee and teacher of the law weeps, crumbling into the embrace. Without the strength to fully stand, he returns the hold and accepts what I deemed the “Nicodemus hug.”
I’ve been a believer in Jesus, walking out this Christian walk for what feels like my entire life… at least 30 years or more, and there have been some moments along the way that I’ve experienced the “Nicodemus hug.” It’s the moment where you finally give up all the stress, anxiety, and confusion and just exist. Not in an empty chasm, void of thought or emotion, but a stillness that abruptly halts your racing thoughts and it becomes a moment where the only thing that matters is Jesus. His love, understanding, and grace pours itself out on your soul and you cannot help but recognize you are standing on holy ground. Tears are virtually inevitable because in the blink of an eye the sacrifice that He made—leaving the right hand of the Father, taking on a fleshly body like ours, living a sinless life yet still being persecuted to the point of a brutal death on a Roman cross for our sake; nails driven through His hands and feet, left to suffocate once the pain of pulling the weight of his weakened flesh becomes overbearing—all of that (and that’s the PG version) for me. For you. For Nicodemus. For the soldier who drove in the nails. For the thief hanging to die next to Him. A plethora of images flash and then as quickly as they came, they go, leaving with them the glow of just… Him—standing strong, but with compassion. He reaches around you, and pulls you close. That is the instant that your understanding ceases to exist and all you know is that everything will be okay. You may not know how, but the stress, anxiety, and confusion take a backseat to the reality that you belong to the Savior who not only sees you, but embraces you like I imagine (with the help of The Chosen) He did with Nicodemus.
My “hug” came in the middle of a conference that took me back to the days of high school and attending Acquire The Fire with my youth group. Thousands of people singing their hearts out to Jesus, many making it a personal devotion to their King. The sound of the five thousand around me last week was beautiful, and I sang to my fullest extent, the words settling into my spirit as I just existed. I did cry and I’m not at all afraid to say so, tears ran steady from both eyes as I was reminded that He is in control. What a relief that I don’t have to be! I know that God does not show favoritism and I’m blessed to have the encounters that I’ve had over the years. However, we don’t live in those brief minutes or hours, but they are great reminders that He’s in control and recharge our passion for our first love. I hope and pray that this rings true for you and if not, that you will get your “Nicodemus hug” soon!