by Vladimir Moss
Today is the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearers, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus. The least famous among these holy men and women is Nicodemus. But his story is no less instructive than the others’.
Nicodemus was “a ruler of the Jews” who came to Jesus by night “for fear of the Jews”. He respected Christ, believing that He must be from God because of the miracles He did. So the Lord taught him, delivering to him one of his most profound teachings, on Baptism by water and the Spirit, and spiritual regeneration.
Nicodemus did not understand. Hindered by his literalist, materialist, Jewish way of thinking, he could not understand how a man had to go back into his mother’s womb and be born again. Jesus rebuked him, but gently, with a kind of loving irony. How could he call himself a teacher in Israel and think in such a materialist way? If he couldn’t understand this, how would he understand the still deeper teachings of the Gospel? (John 3).
But the dim-witted Nicodemus was a lover of the truth and justice. When the Pharisees were arguing about Christ and slandering him, Nicodemus stuck up for Him, for what we would now call His “human rights”: “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7.51).
Gradually increasing in courage and strength, Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathaea in burying the body of Jesus. In fact, it was he who bought the myrrh and the aloes.
The story of Nicodemus’ journey from weak faith to open confession of the truth is less spectacular than the stories of the conversion of the Apostles Thomas and Paul. But hardly less instructive. It reminds us that when we see our relatives and friends stumbling at the faith, apparently unable to understand the truths that are evident to us, we must not despair or vaunt ourselves above them. Faith is a gift of God, but He gives it to different people in different ways and following different trajectories. Some see it all in a flash, as did the Holy Myrrh-bearers and the Apostle John when they looked into the empty tomb. Others believe in a quieter, less emotional, but no less firm and dogged manner, like Joseph, who was determined to give his Master a fitting burial and attained his end. And then there are others, like Nicodemus, who are a bit slow-witted, who take time to understand it all, but get there in the end. All glorify God in their different ways.
Let us not despair of anyone’s salvation before the end. For while there is life there is hope.
May 3/16, 2021.
Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, Joseph and Nicodemus.