Too scared to ask in public

John 2.23 – 3.2

Do you understand people who are reluctant to speak in a public forum? A personal fault of mine is not readily appreciating what a barrier that is for many. I am subject to the other personality trait and am too readily prone to speaking out. For me it goes with my learning style which is strongly bent towards engaging in debate, while others may much more happily be outwardly passive learners keen on listening and observing. In a constructive, supportive, nonthreatening environment all personality types can flourish. However all too frequently life is not like that and the context in which we live can carry heavy penalties if we openly speak our mind or indeed at times do not openly speak up for particular people or ideas. I think of a time when the newly invested President of the USA ask his closest advisers and ministers sitting around the table to each say how great he was. It reminded me of Nebuchadnezzar. In the one case their job was on the line in the other their life. Nicodemus’ desire to find out more about Jesus must have been a bit like that. ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ John 3.2 He had come under the cover of darkness, God’s Spirit prompting him to enquire further.

Nicodemus along with many of the other Jewish leaders had witnessed many signs performed by Jesus during his visit at Passover to Jerusalem. Many believed in Jesus because of these signs, (John does not record what miracles they were) but Jesus was not convinced about the long term sincerity of their belief because of man’s inherently sinful heart. ‘But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.’ John2.24,25 The Jewish religious leadership, of whom Nicodemus was one, were highly antagonized by Jesus’ teaching and actions. At the same Passover he had cleared the temple of traders and then spoken of the temple’s destruction and how he would raise it in three days. If one was a member of the religious leadership one would be very unpopular and risk one’s personal standing by expressing interest and respect for Jesus. So, Nicodemus came at night. Nicodemus was a seeker after God and he recognized God at work through Jesus. We can be confident that in the end Nicodemus became more than a sympathizer, he became a disciple. Jhn 7.50-52, John 19.38-42

Nicodemus’ hesitancy about enquiring after Jesus is a very common thing. Nicodemus was genuinely enquiring, he wanted to know more and he wanted God in his life. There are many like that and there is considerable anecdotal evidence that Covid 19 has increased the level of interest. There has been a reported 20% increase in the numbers attending church by virtual means. Alpha reports more people than ever before attending their courses. What are the factors behind this? Partly it is a response to greater awareness of mortality and how we are not as in control of our lives as we once thought and partly because virtually we can as it were come at night with no one knowing. Whatever the case the Holy Spirit is at work in people lives prompting them to seek and ask.

Jesus provides us as a church with two important examples. He was active and known, publicly ministering to people’s needs in the power of the Holy Spirit. His identity and ministry was not hidden or secret. He demonstrated God’s purposes in his life and words. He did not let difficulty, opposition or hardship prevent him from obedience to the Father. Seekers knew who to go to, to find out more.

Jesus made himself available even at night. He was approachable. He did not have a private life that came before his ministry. He was wholly available to God’s will.

How does this challenge us individually and as a church?


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