Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jesus and the Midnight Toker [Nicodemus Remix]

Do you know what I get from the account in John 3 of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night to inquire about salvation?

Not all things that are done in secret are bad!

I've always been told Nicodemus came at night to talk to Jesus because he was afraid of being "caught" by the rest of the Sanhedrin (of which he was a member). This might be so. It also might be the only time of the day he had free to come, after he got off work. Or maybe he was home thinking about some things and just decided he couldn't wait until morning to go talk to this Jesus guy and ask some questions. It doesn't really matter. The point is, he came to Jesus. He sought out the truth. Whether it was a public proclamation for him (as it was later when he placed Jesus' crucified body in his own personal tomb) or a discreet matter of personal spirituality (if he was "sneaking" to ask Jesus questions), it just really doesn't matter. He followed his heart...and possibly his intellect regarding the Jewish Scriptures.

Questioning is not a bad thing. The bad thing - the thing that doesn't help anyone - is finding unsatisfactory "answers".

"People keep talkin' about me, Baby,
Say I'm doing you wrong.
Well don't you worry, don't worry, no don't worry, Mama,
'Cause I'm right here at home."
And the Steve Miller Band (in the song "The Joker") goes on to assure "Baby/Mama" that he's definitely still into her.
The moral? Sometimes people misinterpret things. But not God. He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).

I'm not really all that familiar with the song, but the term "midnight toker" has always stood out to me for its originality. The music originated in a time of popular drug culture, but "toking" was still illegal, so it wasn't (and isn't) something people did out on the street. They did (do) it "under cover," so as not to get busted. The "midnight" part implies secrecy...darkness...hiding what one does not want to have discovered.

One of my undergraduate professors used to tell us his Christian grandmother would never eat in a dimly-lit restaurant because she believed people who liked doing things in anything less than brightness had something to hide.

I think that is an interesting thought, and maybe there is even a little bit of truth to it...but not always. Some things have more value when they are done in the dark - things like guarding one's integrity (just read about Joseph in Genesis 37 through 50), or surviving an enemy (see Gideon's defeat of the Midianite army in Judges 7).

Not only did Jesus welcome Nicodemus and his nighttime questions, but He also affirmed giving and praying "under cover". This does not mean you shouldn't ever tell anyone you've been praying for them ;). It doesn't mean that if someone asks you if you've been praying or fasting, or if a gift came from you, you should quickly change the subject so you don't "lose your blessing" if they find you out! (Yep, I've encountered a lot of twisted theology in my time....) But Jesus taught in Matthew 6:1-6 (part of the Sermon on the Mount) that when you give or pray in secret (without broadcasting it), God still notices and you will not go unrewarded for it. It will pay off without you having to boast to everyone about your righteousness!

(Also, just for the record, it is okay to pray openly as well, as Daniel exemplifies for us. I think the difference is, again, one's intent - Daniel gave an example of faithfulness even when it was forbidden/frowned upon; the Pharisees Jesus referenced only cared that everyone knew how holy they were.)

God did not only make the day; He also made the night. He is not only Lord over the day, but also over the night. Not only do loud, thunderous billows of flame announce His presence (Exodus 19:10-19), but so does the still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). He is present where two or three (or many) are gathered, but also when we find ourselves all alone.

David had something to say on this subject:

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

2 comments:

  1. This was so good to read on this lovely Sunday morning. Thank you.

    Yvonne.

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  2. Jamie LedgerwoodJuly 3, 2013 at 5:12 AM

    My favorite to date! People might be amazed to discover just how many "midnight tokers" there are. I can relate to Nicodemus and his need for privacy. Perhaps he too needed to listen to Jesus without all the noise and disruption of being judged by anyone other than Him......"for darkness is as light to you."

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