April 5, 2017
By Kassa Nigus
The seventh Sunday of the great lent is known in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church as Niqodimos (ኒቆዲሞስ). The day is named after a member of the Jewish ruling council who took special interest in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the third chapter of St. John the evangelist. Throughout the week of the seventh Sunday, the Church narrates story of Nicodemus and the lesson of rebirth he learned from our Lord Jesus Christ. The story is recorded in John 3:1-8 as follows:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "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.” He was impressed with the signs that Jesus performed in Jerusalem.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old?" Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”. This meant that God is above and therefore to enter His Kingdom we must all be born from above.
What does being ‘born of water’ mean?
We understand in the phrase ‘born of water’ a reference to baptism, either that of John the Baptist, or Christian baptism. The phrase describes our Christian baptism which unites us with the Holy Spirit. Through this wonderful sacrament, we become children of God. Nicodemus desired to become a child of God and was baptized. He believed in the Words of Jesus, was born from above and became one of God’s children.
Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night?
Based on our Church’s interpretation, Nicodemus chose to come to Christ during the night time for fear of being seen by the Jews; he was a scholar and member of the Jewish ruling council. The other reason was probably to get enough time to converse with the Lord and ask Him whatever questions he might have had.
Nicodemus bearing fruit
After our Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross, Nicodemus got a chance to collect and bury the body of His Lord. He and Joseph had lived as secret disciples of the Lord and thus buried His body together.
Before that fateful time, Judas sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver; the chief apostle Peter denied Him and swore that he never knew Him; the other disciples too forsake Him; the chief priests accused Him of blasphemy and the council condemned Him to death.
The only people who took risk of the ridicule of the Romans and persecution from the Jewish religious council for following the Lord till the end were Nicodemus and Joseph – the hidden disciples. The two men came to collect and bury the body of Jesus at their own expense. Here we witness the word Nicodemus received from Jesus in private bearing public fruit.
What can we learn from Nicodemus?
Nicodemus held a high position of trust in the Jewish nation. He was highly educated and possessed talents of no ordinary character, and he was an honored member of the national council. Though rich, learned, and honored, he had been strangely attracted by the humble Nazarene, our Lord Jesus. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation.
If we are to grow, like Nicodemus, we need to admit and seek Jesus for the grace to make the change. Education, culture and science may change us but only the grace of God can transform us. The word of Jesus has the power to transform and release us from every hold of egotism, pessimism, criticism and worldly mindsets.
So let us not boast in our authority, wealth, knowledge, …. that God gave us. Let’s rather learn from the life of this giant saint and seek the rebirth that ushers us into eternal life.
Sources: Holy Bible, King James Version.
Tesfaye Mitiku, 2006 E.C. ሰብዐቱ አጽዋማት (The Seven Fasts)