AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Beth Nelson
Father of the mountains,
Shepherd of the sea,
Author of the questions that are hidden in me.
– “Awake My Soul” by United Pursuit
From my comfortable position two millennia after the fact, Nicodemus, I get you. You came to Jesus for answers and left with more questions. I can imagine the tilt of your head and your nervous hands fiddling with the tassels on your shawl as you began speaking.
“We know.” I wonder, did those words ring in Nic’s ears for days afterward? Did he cringe at the way he approached Jesus telling Him what he knew? I’ve been there. Jesus, grab a seat. Here’s what’s going on. Let me tell You what needs to happen.
Nicodemus was so convinced of what was real. Obviously Jesus is a teacher who has come from God. Everyone could see the evidence of His miracles. And yet Jesus knows a spiritual reality far more concrete than a lame man walking or wine that was water just a second ago. He answers questions we don’t even know we’re asking.
Can this be the Way? Questions? Is Jesus okay with the questions?
What was Jesus like on earth?
How do you imagine Him when you imagine Him?
What do you see when you look to Him now?
What do you see when you see Him look at you?
Last week our friend Amy wrote beautifully of being in the depths, reminding/encouraging us that God never despises our humanity when we’re in despair. In fact, He draws nearer. It’s been my experience—and I wonder if it’s been yours—that I have assumed God despises questions. For years I unconsciously imagined the Father looking at me with, at best, a sort of amused pity, and, at worst, disapointment. I’m tempted to imagine Jesus’s face similarly when I picture Him with Nicodemus in the moonlight. The question He asked feels like a bit of a dig: Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you don’t understand these things?
What if I allowed Jesus room for reframing here? Like a divine Mr. Potato Head (yes, SO irreverent and yet so fitting), what if I took off His lowered eyebrows and swapped them for a little smirk-smile and twinkling eyes? He knows what He said, taking Nicodemus’ literal understanding of human childbirth and swirling it around into water and wind and Spirit and I’m sorry, what, Jesus?
But Nic. Did you hear Him calling you into your truest self? Did you hear Him telling you that you have been born from above already? You said, You must have come from God, adding that there was no other explanation than the Kingdom had come to earth. And God Himself said back to you, You must be born from above.
Those questions were your life, Nicodemus. They brought you back. And I imagine they kept bringing you back, all the way to the tomb where you helped lay the crucified Christ only a few years later.
Friends of God, may we welcome our questions. May we imagine God does the same, in on the joke that He’s the one who put them in us to begin with, all so that we may discover the answers in Him.