it wasn't safe

by Zach Kincaid

The streets swallowed in the dark and carried along a heavy load of weariness. The hour was late. Midnight would soon greet morning.

Why was this night different from any other?

If you looked well above the city, you would see a torch, winding through the streets, here and there lighting up back alleys for quick moments. The man, out of breath and deep in thought, stopped at a door, blew out his torch, and entered inside.

The last several days had raised many questions, and this man carried their weight and his doubts and fears through this particular door and into this particular house. He hoped for something.

He knew John, that crazy prophet who preached at the Jordan River. He also knew something took place just the other day as another wild-eyed prophet wandered to the river.

The stories flooded the marketplace. “Did you hear? Did you see the sky? It opened. It opened like the Red Sea. Then, a voice came through it. It’s true. The voice knew the new man and the Baptizer. That old prophet had a smile the size of the temple doors because everyone looked up and a dove swooped down like that fiery chariot of Elijah, and it landed on this other prophet. The Baptizer called him the Son of God. He called him Jesus!”

The man knew the other stories too – the water changing into wine and the miraculous healings that Jesus accomplished on the very roads he walked every day. His name now sparked many conversations in the temple. And among the Pharisees there was a murmur that this Jesus was unsteady and unruly. This Jesus needed to be watched.

Why was this night different from any other?

The man who raced the torch through the back roads was a Pharisee named Nicodemus. He came when the sun abandoned the day and the heavens seem more accessible. He came when the crowds had subsided their nagging for just a glimpse of this Jesus. He came when he thought it would be safe.

It wasn’t safe. Jesus said to him, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the spirit is spirit. The wind blows but you don’t know where. That’s how the Spirit is. You don’t know where it may come from or where it may go. I have come from God. I am his son. I don’t condemn you. I love you. The world may be dark, but I am the light.”

Nicodemus left. He had experienced the holy of holies in a common house on a familiar street during a normal evening. He would monitor this Jesus, but now it wasn’t that he threatened his ego. Jesus had captured it, not by answering all his questions, but answering only one. “How can this be, being born a second time?” That which is born of flesh is flesh. That which is born of spirit is spirit.

By the end, Nicodemus would be huddled over a dead Christ, massaging dead hands and dead feet and weeping over a stopped heart. (John 19:39) An unseated joy must have run over him when that whisper that Jesus said to Mary filled the marketplace afresh and made its way to his ears…

"'Mary, Don’t cry' is what he said to her. He wasn't dead. It wasn't her imagination. The stone was moved away. Can you believe it!? I even heard that Jesus showed his followers where the nails drove into him."