|Posted by jeffdoucette on April 7, 2018 at 7:50 AM|
Each year I love to write a fictional monologue for the Easter Sunrise service loosely based on the Easter Sunday scripture passage but rooted in my faithful imagination. While there is no evidence that Nicodemus was the “Other disciple”…well there was no evidence he was not. So having preached on him this Lent…I decided to play with his story as if he might have been there that Easter morning. (Rev. Jeff)
Nicodemus, the “Other Disciple”
A Witness to the Resurrection
(An Easter sunrise monologue by Rev. Jeff Doucette)
John 20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
The road from darkness to light can be long and scary. But if you stay on the journey, your heart will thank you and you will never live the same way. It has been many years but I love to tell my grandchildren the story every time they ask.
My name is Nicodemus and my story has been told because I was with Peter on that first day of the week when Jesus rose from the dead. But my story and my journey begins before that.
I was a member of the Pharisees, a leader of the Jewish people and a member of the Sanhedrin which was the high court of Jerusalem. I was part of the privileged and entitled class. I had access to power, all the right people, all the best and influential meals. I had status, I had class. I had everything one could want.
Or…at least I thought I did…
It all began at what I would have thought was a simple wedding…but I soon learned that it was not to be so simple… For you see there was this man named Jesus, a simple man, a carpenter’s son from Nazareth. I had never been to Nazareth…and why would I have reason. I knew no one from there and really what good could come from Nazareth. I travelled to Cana to be at this wedding as a favor to the father of the groom whom I knew. This man Jesus was a cousin of the bride and mixed and mingled along with his mother Mary. The wedding meal was like every other wedding meal with cheap wine that flowed fast and quickly and ran out. But I noticed a small commotion not far from me. This woman was berating her son to do something about the wine situation…there was laughter then a slap and a look from her that made him say “ok ok…go and tell them to check the barrels again.
Well my eyes curled with intrigue and out came more servants with flasks and filled our cups with the richest full bodied flavored wine I had ever tasted. I thought they had hidden the good stuff…but found out it was this Jesus that made this wine appear from no where. Was he a magician? A charlatan? No they would have commanded an audience, but he did this quietly. I leaned into my servant who stood behind me and asked him to find out where this wine had come from really. He returned with the story that it was this Jesus of Nazareth and it was not the first time he had done incredible things like this. So I made my way over and sat with them and listened to him talk. His message was simple in how he talked about God and God’s love.
Something in me stirred at that moment and I can’t explain it. Why would a woman with no status or importance matter to me? But at that moment it did… Maybe it was because I was feeling tired and burdened by what I did. Each day I could see the faces of people who were being beaten further down in life. They could not seem to get up. Yet I was hearing stories of people who did.
So I made some enquiries as to how to find him. And so in the dark of night I found him and we talked by the light of a candle of matters of the heart. I did so because it would not have been good for me to be caught talking to him and risk everything at this point. He called me on my privilege and entitlement and asked me why my heart was struggling with it now. He talked about God’s love for the world…and how it might not be the world I expected. I left with such a full heart and still many questions. I knew going in that he was of God…but coming out I was sure of it.
So who was this world God so loved? Well I began to hear stories. I was shocked to hear that Jesus travelled to Sychar in Samaria and actually sat with a woman at mid day…ALONE…by the well and drank from their water ladel at the well of Jacob. He even engaged this woman in discussion. This woman travelled back to her village and began to tell everyone of this man who knew her entire life and her heart and offered her a new living water. Her life changed from that moment on…and the world God so loved was making itself clearer to me.
So I decided to try and get closer to Jesus and follow him. I could do that easily as a member of the Pharisees. We were the keepers of everything that was liturgical and ritual and we made sure people followed these laws. I had my spies and I also kept my eyes open and watched and followed people and groups. So there would be no suspicions raised if I volunteered to gather evidence on Jesus. It was not for them but for me and my own questions.
I was close by when he healed the dying son of the royal official. That struck me as he was of important status. Maybe Jesus was telling me that all are equal in God’s eyes. I was shocked at the time he healed the man ill for 38 years next to the pool of Siloam because no one would help him in when the waters got stirred. I would not have risked being impure by touching this man…but Jesus did with such gentleness and compassion. I heard about the time when he took the five loaves and two fish of a young boy and multiplied them and fed 5000 people. I began to look for unexpected gifts in the children who ran through the neighborhoods if given the chance to share them. I stood in the shadows the time when he offered forgiveness to the woman caught in adultery. It was when Jesus asked who among us had not sinned…we could cast the first stone. He just kept writing in the sand and I imagined he was writing mine calling me out. He sent her home free and forgiven and teary eyed.
Around this time my fellow members of the Sanhedrin were gathered looking for ways to arrest Jesus then and there. I spoke up saying “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” But they would not listen to me.
Then there was the time when Jesus cured the man born blind even though it was thought he was blind because of the sins of his parents. It was what we were taught but again he was the world God loved. It was the time when he raised Lazarus from the dead, not like the local magicians, but because of God. He called out to the heavens saying: “I know God you hear me…” and then called Lazarus out of the tomb. To the others it was the line in the sand you do not cross…pretending to speak for God?” But it sent a chill down my spine and a tear in my eye as Lazarus came out fully bound and then unbound. I wanted to run and help them unbind him feeling as if it was my own bandages unwrapping the darkness from me and allowing the light to fully shine. This was when it all unravelled for Jesus.
I heard rumblings that they were going to try to arrest him and put this to a stop but I was not in on where and when. It was Passover and I was with my family and we were celebrating like other homes in our neighborhood. A knock came to my door that made my heart sink. During Passover…it was happening now. I was right!
The next few hours were crazy. They arrested him and threw him in prison. Some tried to reason and bargain with the high priests but to no end. The crowd was forming and they wanted Jesus dealt with…or maybe they were simply egged on by Caiaphas and Annas. Hatred can poison a heart and travel fast.
And before I knew it, Pilate who was trying to climb his way back into a position of power took control of Jesus. I could see it in his eyes that this was not going to go well. He was more interested in power than the truth of the situation. But rather than listen to the truth, he gave into the crowds who had become a mob. And awaiting Jesus was the cross…the most painful way to die. It was also the way to stop a movement, its leader and its followers and send a message.
I was not far away when I saw Jesus take his last breath. To watch his mother grieving, watching her son die before her eyes cut me to the heart. The few disciples who had not run away stood helplessly by at a distance. When he breathed his last it was like the wind came out of my sails. It turned so dark…I felt like I was back in the darkness on my way to meet Jesus for the first time.
I had made friends with some of the disciples and they trusted me not to be like the others. They saw I looked at Jesus as they did…with love. We were crushed and it felt like hope had been taken from us…which is what the authorities wanted.
I was friends with Joseph of Arimathea and was there when he pleaded for the body of Jesus so that he could bury him. I went along with him and the others thought I was going to make sure everything was done properly according to Jewish law. But I went because I wanted to say my goodbyes to Jesus, to thank him for helping me into the light, yet trying to figure out how to stay in that light.
When we placed Jesus in the tomb after the women had loving prayed over him anointing him with spices…we rolled the stone over the tomb opening and thought it was all over. But no….
I was out wandering the street early in the morning trying to figure out what to do and where to go next with all that happened. My head was spinning and my heart still in disbelief.
Then I saw a figure running toward me and he approached I saw that it was Peter…he grabbed me and looked me in the eyes and said “Nicodemus…the tomb is empty…the tomb is empty!!! Mary just told me. My heart began to race and we took off running as fast as we could. I almost forgot Peter was beside me as I ran ahead of him slightly and arrived at the tomb ahead of him. I peered in and it was empty with only the burial cloth lying where we had placed him. Could it be true? Did he rise from the dead? Surely if someone stole his body, they would have not unwrapped him. And Mary said she saw him or did she. I was paralyzed and could not move my feet, staying outside the tomb.
Then Peter arrived breathing heavy from the run and his beating heart and he did not stop but ran inside. I watched as he looked around the tomb and began to laugh. My feet unfroze and I entered the tomb. I picked up the burial cloths and could still smell the anointment. But my hands tingled and an energy ran through me and I knew Mary was right. I believed! Jesus was no longer dead!
Peter and I embraced and laughed in the midst of our tears and we ran back out to find the others and share our stories. And share our stories we did. We gathered again and again and ate together and told stories of Jesus and knew we would never be the same and that this was not the end but the beginning.
We would see Jesus a couple more times before he bid us farewell and went home to God. But he was not gone, he lived in our stories and in our eating and in our witnessing to people.
And me? I left the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. I joined the disciples and shared my stories of Jesus. I helped to spread the Good News that people were loved no matter what they lived, what their status was. In God’s eyes they were simply his children. I used my wealth to help others, sharing it with the disciples and using it for God’s kingdom.
Once you know the story, you can never go back. So stay on the road my friends. Go to the lost and forsaken, go to the margins, go even if it scares you or challenges you…you are not alone. Jesus has risen and is with you and me on the road. And always will be!