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Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight

by davesandel on September 14th, 2021

Tuesday, September 14, 2021                                    (today’s lectionary)

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight

In The Chosen, Nicodemus plays a wanna-be large role. But he (and his wife) are afraid to give up their position as leaders of the Pharisees. Jesus invites him to come along with his disciples and tells him where and when to meet them, but as the moment approaches and passes, Nicodemus is frozen in place. His face is grief-stricken; he knows without a doubt that his fear has ruined his chance to walk with Jesus. He who saves his own life will lose it. He knows.

With their patience worn out by the journey the people complained. Then in punishment the Lord sent serpents, which bit the people and poisoned them, and many of them died. The people came to Moses and acknowledged their sin. “Pray that the Lord will take the serpents away from us!”

Nicodemus knew the story; he knew many who, like the complaining Israelites, were unhappy no matter what. Sometimes they begged him to help fix the mess they’d gotten themselves into. And like Moses, soft hearted Nicodemus prayed for them.

He wished someone could have prayed for him that night, when he stood frozen in place as the time for rendezvous passed. No doubt Jesus himself was praying, though, and still Nicodemus didn’t budge. The deadly serpent of fear and fear and fear bit him in the foot, and the ugly serum quickly traveled through his bloodstream to his heart.

Do not forget the works of the Lord! They flattered him with their mouths and lied to him with their tongues. Their hearts were not steadfast toward him, nor were they faithful to his covenant. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

In just these ways Nicodemus knew how guilty he was. His desire for holiness came and went. His thoughts about his own greatness were never more than a hairsbreadth away from his mind. Renowned as a teacher, he spoke little and listened much, but when he thought of Jesus … oh, my, Jesus seemed holy inside and out.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Nicodemus was quiet, leaning toward Jesus to hear his soft words in that darkest time of night; they met then to avoid the prying eyes of others. He had no idea what Jesus meant by the Son of Man, but he knew the story of Moses and the lifted seraph.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Now, as Nicodemus watched his timepiece give away the hours and he knew Jesus was away and his time was gone, he felt attacked, accused, condemned and cursed. The snake was working away, destroying his soul. But he knew his psalms, and he knew the words going back and forth over and over in his mind were Satan’s words, not God’s.

But being merciful, God forgave their sin and destroyed them not. He turned back from his anger, and let no more of his wrath be roused.

Nicodemus heard Jesus again, as he had heard him last night:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

He slept badly, unlike his wife snoring softly beside him. He promised himself he would help Jesus however he could, whenever he could, for the rest of his life.

(Numbers 21, Psalm 78, Philippians 23, John 3)

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