It’s sometimes easy to let certain holidays pass by without taking the time to deeply observe them every year. Easter is one of those holidays that, if we aren’t careful, can be more focused on the kids finding all the Easter eggs or finding the right outfits for the family to wear to church than making sure we take time to meditate on Jesus and His sacrifice.
At the start of this year the Lord placed on my heart the word remember. I’ve found that as Lent progresses and we approach Easter, the action of remembering is most crucial.
Recently, I read The Characters of Easter: The Villains, Heroes, Cowards, and Crooks Who Witnessed History’s Biggest Miracle by Daniel Darling. Each chapter in this book is about one or more characters in the Easter story, and it got me thinking about the different people we meet through the story of Easter. Nicodemus’s story is one that has always impacted me.
Nicodemus was noted in Jewish history as an elite Pharisee who held a seat on the Sanhedrin, the prestigious 70-member ruling body dominated by Sadducees. In other words, he was a wealthy businessman and a prestigious religious leader. If he were to ever profess faith in Jesus, the Pharisees would immediately cast him off from their synagogue.
In the midst of quiet belief, strong fear, and overwhelming curiosity, Nicodemus seeks out a secret meeting with Jesus in the night. He put his life on the line to see Jesus face-to-face.
This is a powerful moment of vulnerability, where an influential, wealthy, and intelligent man sits restless in front of a lowly carpenter, asking Him to answer questions about eternity.
Through this interaction, we get one of the most beloved and beautiful verses from Jesus, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).
We don’t know whether or not Nicodemus gave his life that night, but we do know that after Jesus’s death, Nicodemus makes a great public and financial sacrifice by bringing costly spices and ointments for His burial.
“Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19:39-40 ESV).
Daniel Darling describes the moment of Joseph and Nicodemus preparing Jesus for His burial this way, “We can’t know exactly what they were thinking as they performed this thankless task–whether, for instance, fear and doubt were creeping into their hearts. But we know that their private faith, the secret they whispered to each other in the halls of Jerusalem, would now be public.”
I wonder if, as Jesus died on the cross, Nicodemus remembered those powerful words Jesus spoke to him that one night. I wonder if that was the moment he decided that openly worshipping Jesus was worth sacrificing all he had built for himself.
That is what remembering Jesus and His death and resurrection should create in all of us: a transcendent movement from independence to self-sacrificial dependence on the true King.
The result of remembering is gratefulness, and the fruit of gratefulness is generosity. I believe Nicodemus went through these stages, and I pray that we all go through that journey as we get closer to Resurrection Sunday.
As our world is confronted with violence, sickness, and other evils that we can’t even imagine, I encourage you to take a moment and remember what Jesus did on the cross. Remember what never changes, remember who He is, remember who we are through Him.