2270) Why I Like Nicodemus (part two of three)

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     (…continued)  Nicodemus comes to Jesus and says, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  Now that is a good point.  It is one you would think everyone could have seen.  If someone can heal the sick, give sight to the blind, make the deaf hear, and stop the power of a storm at sea with a verbal command, you would think that would be enough to gain at least a hearing.  But not for most of Nicodemus’s friends.  Even after Jesus’ greatest miracle, the raising to life of the dead and decomposing Lazarus, even then most Pharisees did not see the workings of God in their midst; rather, it was then they decided Jesus must be stopped.  “If we allow him to go on like this,” they said, “pretty soon everyone will believe in him.”  Exactly.  A man who can raise the dead IS worth believing in.  But they wanted to get rid of Jesus.

     That response shows there is no limit to how close-minded someone can become.  The Pharisees were so sure they had everything figured out that not even a miracle like that would get them to see something new about God.  They were completely closed off to any new truth, so they refused to see who Jesus was.  But not Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was troubled by Jesus.  He wondered how Jesus could that say that he and the Father were one, how he could tell people their sins were forgiven, how he could put himself above the sacred writings of Scripture.  It was all very troubling to Nicodemus.  But he was open-minded enough to come and see Jesus for himself.

     I am reminded of the novel Hawaii, by James Michener.  There is much in the book about God and faith and, like John chapter 3, about being confronted with new religious truths.  It is historically accurate in many ways (though not in every way).  The Hawaiians in the early 1800’s were still worshiping their ancestral gods.   Their worship included frequent human sacrifice, sometimes by clubbing the person to death and sometimes by burying them alive.  Women were like property, and fathers would think nothing of making money off of their teenage daughters by prostituting them to the crews of the ships that would often stop there.  Slaves were even worse off.

     The missionaries brought to the Hawaiians a new understanding of God and morality, and the Hawaiians were surprisingly open to it.  They appreciated the good things the missionaries were doing among them, and in large numbers they did believe in this new God.

     The missionaries were also confronted by many new things.  They are, of course, horrified by the lack of regard for human life, but there were other things in Hawaiian tradition life that were very admirable.  The missionaries could also learn much from the Hawaiians.  Some of them were open-minded to learning these new things, but some are completely closed minded, saying they “will not learn the ways of the heathen,” even though many of what they called ‘the heathen’ had already converted to Christianity.

     One of the most infuriating people in the whole book is Abner Hale, a missionary who, like the Pharisees, believes he has everything all figured out, and  refuses to let anything new enter his mind.  He has a strong faith, he is courageous and hardworking, and he brings many positive changes to life on the island of Maui.  But in his close-minded approach he refuses to respect anything about the Hawaiians, refuses to let them share in the ministry, and insists on belittling and ridiculing anything traditional on the island.  By his stubbornness, he ends up undoing many of the good things he had accomplished.  Then, when his beloved son marries a Hawaiian, he refuses to have anything to do with either of them ever again.  He ends up a lonely and pathetic man– because he refused to be open-minded.

     But many of the Hawaiians were, like Nicodemus, open to this new religious truth in Jesus Christ, and their new faith brought many positive changes to their lives.  Human sacrifices and slavery were ended, women were treated better, old prejudices were set aside, and fathers began to send their daughters to school instead of selling them to sailors.  The Hawaiians, like Nicodemus, were often confused by their conflicting loyalties, but the wiser of the missionaries encouraged them to keep any and all of their old ways and traditions that were not in direct conflict with the truth and the spirit of Christianity.  (continued…)