6. NICODEMUS AND LAZARUS
Lazarus had brought Nicodemus into his home, and introduced him to his family: his sisters, Mary and Martha, and his household of six servants. It was the home of a wealthy and generous man, blessed of God and man. Well respected and honoured in his community. Yet, it was not for this that God led them together. In all things, God desires and brings about His ways and times; and so it was here. Little did Nicodemus realise who or what this man would be to him and of his relationship with the Lord he would follow. So, as they entered the threshold, and servants brought water to wash their feet, he was not aware of the Lord's leading and preparation of and for him to meet Jesus, his Christ.
"Welcome to my humble home. It is blessed, and given of God. All that I have is at your service, brother Nicodemus. Please sit, so we may wash your feet." Lazarus bowed and motioned to one of his servants to perform the task. Nicodemus sits on a divan and lifts the hem of his garment. Two women come to stand behind Lazarus. "Thank you. I see that the Lord has indeed blessed you, in all things. Are these women of your family, also?"
"Yes. This is my sister, Martha, and this is my youngest sister, Mary. Welcome our friend and neighbour, of Jerusalem, Master Nicodemus. He is a member of the Sanhedrin."
The two women bow to the visitor, and look to Lazarus for orders. When none comes, they retire inside the doorway. Mary though retreats just inside and stands still, eager to hear from this new and important man, to their house. Nicodemus is a humble man, and even more so after John. He is uncomfortable at being saluted as a member of the Sanhedrin. "There is no need to give me a formal introduction. It is enough that you welcome me to your home.” He turns and addresses the women and servants. “I am but a servant of God. I do my best to help His people, and lead them as He would have me. That is all. I am no greater than any other."
Martha, burdened by the occurrence of this new visitor, runs to the kitchen to prepare a meal for them both.
Lazarus, in being a good judge of men through his work, quietly nods approval to himself, of this man sitting before him. He was right to invite him in. "You are a humble man, Nicodemus. God must have dealt with you, to see yourself in such light?"
Nicodemus sits bolt upright; "Light!? Yes! That is what it was, and IS." He speaks with a bright face of recognition. Already, God is giving insight to what it was John spoke to him.
Mary then interjects: "What is?"
Lazarus looks at Mary, it was not right for her to speak to the honoured guest without permission. But Mary being Mary, always sought to find the answers before her head caught up, when she sensed someone knew something about God she did not know. Nicodemus did not mind or take offence at this woman's interruption, but instead, proceeded to divulge before them all, the burden of his heart.
Excitedly, he replies: "What is? The Word of God from a prophet of God, that is what IS, my child. (his eyes are soft and penetrating, as he looks into the eyes of Mary, as a father his child) I heard a man yesterday, speak such words of power and conviction, that my heart is fairly burdened with the weight of them.
They were words of rebuke and ridicule I thought, at first. But now I see they were of the clearest Light. Light so pure, it has called into question my very means of existence. No, not existence, but purpose.
They have brought to bear great questions upon my mind, of the gravest kind. Questions of religion; our religion, and of God and Who He is, and who we are in relation to Him. And especially; what is the purpose of being a religious leader - if not to lead the people to their God and not to leave them wandering again in a wasteland, to perish."
Lazarus's face quickens at this and sees an opportunity to help this man of God, and himself. "You have indeed met God in these words, that have so penetrated your heart. Come, let us sit at table, so we may all better hear these words of God and help you weigh your heart."
They turn together, to enter the house proper. Lazarus extends his arm in invitation. Some servants rush ahead to prepare the space, the others had already prepared the table. Fresh towels, of the finest linen were placed on the table, and the best sofas placed. All were anxious to hear what this man had to say. They had rarely heard any Pharisee speak so openly about his true heart and of God: they felt here was a man to listen to. They ensured he lacked nothing, not just because of his position, but also so it would not cause any hindrance to the conversation to come.
Nicodemus was pleased he had accepted this man's company and good will. And yet, as he thought on it, it occurred to him; that this was God's hand, and not man's, at work.
"Lazarus, though I have only been acquainted with you a few short minutes, I will be so bold as to say, it is God's hand that brings us together. God knows how burdened my heart had been, in coming up from the Jordan; and He has led me here, to a place of understanding and peace. For truly, here is a place of true Shalom - the Peace of God.
"I will tell you my story of that day, and I would bid all hear it. For it is in God's timing and will that I should bring it here, for myself and for yours also." He beckons to the servants to join in, and Lazarus nods in agreement.
"You undoubtedly, have heard of this man called John, the Baptist. [they nod in agreement] I, with several of my fellow men, went to him at the Jordan to be baptised. It has been a long time since there has been such a proclamation of repentance to Israel. It touched my soul." The others looked at each other, not daring to tell him what they knew about John.
"Upon arrival though, I found that his welcome was not what I would have had. He rebuked us to our faces; and in front of the people. We were utterly humiliated. It was as if he saw straight through us and saw our deepest unknown thoughts; the very essence of our thinking. He exposed it as a sham, and I was shame-faced. I saw how I had served man rather than God, thinking that by pleasing man I would please God. I saw our religion as not representing God to the people, but as a means whereby we, the spiritual leaders, had in fact alienated them from Him. Man MUST please God, if he is to be true to himself and what he is in God.”
They were all taken aback at this outburst from an elder in Israel. Yet, it was refreshing to hear the truth for a change. Lazarus spoke for them all: "You have had, indeed, an encounter with your conscience. My friend, if I am not mistaken, you speak of a man known to us. A close friend of our family is a relative of his: a cousin on his mother's side. He came here, with some friends, only a few days ago. He too was heading to John, though I do not know why?"
Nicodemus is puzzled and interested that there could be another man, like John, in Israel. "What is his name? And why should it be so strange that this man should also seek remission of his sins?"
Before Lazarus could speak the words in his mouth, Mary interjected again. She was proud of, and to know, this friend of their family. "His name is Jesus. He is a prophet, also." Lazarus looks at her; and his gentle rebuke is heeded. "She speaks the truth: his name is Jesus, and he is a man close to God. The questions you ask of yourself, are ones he has addressed to us, also. It has been challenging to be his friend."
This answer arouses even more the teacher's interest and draws out of him more probing questions for himself: "What does he say concerning our religion, then, that caused you also to seek answers?"
Lazarus pauses. He considers very carefully what he should say and whether this man should hear. It is a deadly thing if he is a spy for Caiaphas, or worse, Herod and Pilot. He rubs his chin, in consideration, but it is short. He is sure that this Pharisee is a true seeker, and so he confides in him what they know: "He says, and I have had to agree, that God gave us the keys to free our people and the world, of the effect of sin. And we have not used it. The keys to the Kingdom lie in the fact that God has given us the Covenant of Faith, and the authority to forgive sin, but we have forgotten it. All our problems lie in our sin, not with man. Rome is not, and never has been, our problem or God's; it is our rebellion towards God and His laws that result in our bondage, not that Rome or any other nation is able to rule over us. If seen correctly, we would recognise it as a sign that we, as a nation, are sinning and have been handed over to our enemies – as in the past.
He says we have made the ritual our religion and not God. That man was made to worship and fellowship with his God, Who is God. And that that which prevents this is not of God and, therefore, not true religion. It is, in fact, idolatry. We have worshipped the works of our hands, and not honoured His. We have not put faith in the Covenant but in the sacrifices, and so we sin with no true repentance.
We have been given the privilege of serving the one True, Living God, and yet we are afraid to use His Name - by which we are called. It has become a curse to us; a mystery, akin to witchcraft. Why are we afraid? Will God kill us if we use His Name? He has sworn by this Name, to uphold His covenant with us; why then should we not call upon this Name? For truly, if we honour His Name, as we are supposed to, we would not use it in vain.
Nicodemus has been sitting, nodding his head in recognition of the Truth of these statements. More light has come to add to that which enlightened him by John. He speaks slowly; "Now I see, why I have been led here. There are answers to my questions, as well as further self implications. I thank you for sharing yourself with me, as ignorant as I am." He nods to Lazarus.
"I have found that as you talked and my mind thought of John's rebuke, a new awareness has entered upon my heart: I do not really know my God - our God - at all. Too much study has clouded my view, not enhanced it. All it has done is reveal my lack of knowledge, not what it was supposed to reveal."
Lazarus puts his arm over his shoulder. "Do not be dismayed, Nicodemus. The fact you recognise your own ignorance is a great advance in learning and true knowledge. Very few nowadays, have even come to recognise this of themselves. But you have. God has a far greater purpose for you, yet, my friend."
"You are right. But it is truly humbling to recognise this. Especially, as I am supposed to be a leader in Israel." he replies.
Ever eager Mary, now seeks to console him. She looks to her brother and stretches forth her hand in compassion, to touch the old man's; "And now you are. I am sure our friend, Jesus, will only be too willing to speak with you when he returns from being baptised."
"But master," shyly, haltingly she speaks, and looking at Lazarus, who nods approval. While Martha is concerned at her sister's forwardness. "What about John. Is he really like they say? A madman, a prophet, Christ or all of them. What was he really like?" Her eyes are alight with the expectation of youth and what to her is treading on holy ground.
Nicodemus is becoming emotional at the welcome and acceptance he has enjoyed here; yet he steadies himself and considers this serious question. "He ---- is John. No other could be him. Yes. Only John could be John, as only I can be me. John is like himself, Mary!!" He brightens up at this further revelation and looks straight into her beautiful eyes.
This is not the reply she wanted. And Lazarus laughs at Nicodemus' reply. Yet, he recognises the truth of the statement. So, for her sake he pushes the point and asks for clarification. "What did he really look like, my friend; and what was his preaching? We have heard much of this man; and the fact Jesus has heeded his call also has certain repercussions for us too, I feel."
Martha looks aghast at the thought of confessing sins publicly. It is now Nicodemus's turn to rub his chin: "As I have said: John is John, and only he could be himself. I realise now, that a man of God, is as God desires him and not as man would require him to be. He is a man of God, because God dwells in him. Yes, he appears rather odd in appearance, but it is said he is a Nazarite."
He lifts his head to Lazarus and is interrupted by Mary again, but this is looked down on by Lazarus. "We have heard that he was one from birth." she blurts out. The Elder of Israel nods in agreement; "Yes, my child. That would certainly explain his long hair and emaciated appearance. But Mary, it is not his physical appearance that grabs you, it is his Presence." he says with emphasis.
"God radiates from him, though I doubt many of the others noticed; the offence overwhelmed them. God pours forth from his very person. His eyes are alight, and they are not the eyes of a madman. I have seen the eyes of the religious fanatics - he is not one.
His Word echoes in your heart and pounds upon your mind. The fact he offends is natural for him, he could do it no other way. Rock cannot be broken with a plough - it takes a hammer." He pauses and seeks to find the answer to his ignorance elsewhere.”
"But I would inquire further of this man, Jesus. Why do you find it strange that he should seek remission of his sins? What is so different about him, that such a thing is strange?" He queries Lazarus. "He is a man, no different to many others. I have known him from an infant; yet, in his eyes also, you see a vision of God far brighter than ours could be. His words also can offend you, but they encourage you; at the same time. He speaks of God as his Father, and as being ours too. It is something I find hard to fathom. Yet God was Adam's Father - as it is written. He calls you to seek the truth and not to settle for less; yet his truth appears beyond my ability, or even willingness, to heed or believe."
Nicodemus clenches his teeth slightly and nods; 'Yet that does not explain why? John is very much like that also.'
"You speak the truth. I have not given you a very good reason, but that is because he is such a difficult person to explain." This draws the eldest sister into the conversation; she is always reticent about being out of place and sinning against her brother's headship. Yet, it is she who would prove to them all that she had the greatest faith of them all, when her brother would die. So, she looks to her brother to offer him her insight: 'Brother, does not the answer lie in his life. He is forever doing good works, yet they seem never to proceed from any effort on his behalf. Righteousness appears to flow from him as easy as breathing. Something I have strived for is natural to him.'
Then she turns to look at the Elder; 'That is what is so unusual and confounding about him. We strive to be holy, whereas, he does it by nature. That is why it appears so incredible that he should require baptism, for I am sure God hears all his prayers.'
"If this is indeed true, I must meet this man one day; and the sooner the better. While this conviction is upon me, it would be of great benefit to receive further light.' He is encouraged that there may well be an answer to his dilemma.
Lazarus places his arm around him and further eases his burden: "If you desire, I can arrange a meeting with him, when he returns for the Passover. He obeys the Lord's commands strictly, and has never missed the three set feasts, even when a boy.' A peace settles over his face and the tension in his shoulders noticeably eases. 'Yes. I would appreciate that. Thank you, my brother. Now let us return to our meal; I feel all this talking has left it cold.'
With her eyes lowered Mary poses the obvious: "There are more important things than food, master." A smile passes across the old man's face "And so there are, daughter. The soul hungers for God, and we feed it with the world; no wonder we are so ignorant of Him and His ways. So as we have eaten of heavenly things, we eat of the earthly that we may be strong enough to seek God further - our true Food, the Word of God.'
Lazarus continues to guide Nicodemus over to his couch and beckons him to recline as he says: "Come let us drink and eat to our God's blessing: for as He has blessed, so shall we. Come, bring fresh wine and lamb for our guest; the learned Nicodemus. This day has the Lord placed him, even further, along the path of Knowledge and Truth. Let us celebrate with him and rejoice in the wisdom of our God."
And so, they all recline to dinner, and speak of less compelling things. The night is long and the company good, so they are loathed to stop. But Nicodemus must be in Jerusalem tomorrow to go with the others to Caiaphas, so they withdraw and seek dreams and pleasant sleep. Yet, in his sleep, Nicodemus still hears John's words and those of the leader. He wakes and wonders what is the fate of John that this hater of God seeks to bring about: he prays for God's protection of John, and returns to sleep.
Author of In the Spirit of Elijah
Jesus and friends at the Jordan
by Trevor Payne
Aug 6, 2014
Meanwhile, James, the Lord's brother, has been taking notice of how John baptises his adherents. He is taken aback at his approach. Though knowing he is of levitical stock, the fact that John has turned away from orthodox priesthood compels him to reject John as a priest. He has not been taking notice of the current conversation, when he interjects with: "Did you see that John!! He lifts up his hands, as if calling on God to bless those, he has just baptised. It is as if he is a priest. How can he do this? Is it not for a priest or levite to do such a thing."
Estelle Parke Book Review: 'In the Spirit of Elijah' by Trevor Payne
Jul 31, 2014
He has managed to write the book in such a way as to present the characters, especially John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ and assorted disciples, as real, human, genuine people. In this regard, I feel that the author is to be commended for a job well done. He has included a variety of small, personal accounts and incidents which help to humanize the Biblical characters and 'bring them to life' for the reader. I was disappointed to discover that there are numerous grammatical and other errors of writing throughout the work...
Awaiting the Light - Luke: excerpt from "In the Spirit of Elijah"
Jul 23, 2014
"Well, Lord, how shall I begin? What should I speak of, or on, that could aid my brother? How should I write of our beloved John, your cousin? I'm not the apostle that I have known him; and yet his life has had a marked effect on your Church. I have been with Paul many years and see incredible things you do through him; but John? How should I write? What should I write? Why should I write? What should I call this manuscript, that will speak of so great a servant?"
Preface for "In the Spirit of Elijah"
Jul 18, 2014
I know that the first few times I sat down to write, my hair would stand on end or I would get goose-bumps. I felt I was NOT writing a story but history!? It was scary. I remember praying about what John's prison cell loooked like and being given a picture that was not what I thought it should be; so I drew it. Then later I discovered that that was precisely what the cells were at Herod's palace of Machaerus -- pits with a heavy wooden grid over them.
A fictional tale about John the Baptist
Jul 20, 2014
Drop in on the many conversations that occurred. Behold the terror and devastation of the Prison that becomes his greatest victory. The confusion when God is silent or chooses not to reveal His depth of meaning. The opposition of those who think they serve God but don't. And the darkness of God's love for His servant, as He outworks His perfect will for him.
Trevor Payne, an Australian, is a longtime and dedicated believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who has spent his life in the study of the Scriptures, prayer, fasting and charitable works. He is an avid reader of all things spiritual and feels deeply that far too many Christians are caught up in the 'form of religion' instead of being 'transformed into the image of Christ.'
"In the Spirit of Elijah"
by Trevor Payne
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: Xulon Press
Published March 29, 2013
Prices: Kindle $9.30