Psalms 34:2, 9, 17-18, 19-20
In this Easter season when we celebrate the great joy of the Resurrection, today's scripture readings vividly present different reactions to the message and teaching of Jesus. In the first scripture reading we have the reaction of Annas and his cohorts in the Sanhedrin. In the days after the Ascension of Jesus, their opposition to Jesus remained constant. They were steadfast in refusing to listen to and believe in the words of Jesus. If anything, their anger and hatred grow as evidenced by their treatment of the apostles for preaching about Jesus. They now concentrate their anger on the apostles and begin to plot to kill them.
In contrast, the apostles, now strengthened and fortified by the sacraments, go out and fearlessly proclaim the message of Jesus to one and all. The more Annas and the leaders of the people try to shut them up, the more people listen to them and believe in Jesus. With the help of the Lord, the apostles thwart the efforts of the leaders to suppress their preaching and teaching, and the number of those who believe grows and grows. The apostles are on fire with zeal for their mission. They want everyone to hear the good news that they have received from Jesus, and they are willing to suffer any punishment, even death, rather than stop their preaching and teaching.
In the gospel reading, Jesus speaks to Nicodemus. Nicodemus is an interesting figure in the gospel story. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, a person of authority, but he was not opposed to the words of Jesus like the other members of the Sanhedrin mentioned above. It is obvious that Nicodemus is intrigued by Jesus, and that he wants to know more about him. And so he decides to go and see Jesus and find out more about him. But Nicodemus fears the others in the Sanhedrin and the leaders of the people, and is not willing to be seen publicly with Jesus. So he goes to Jesus secretly and at night. His encounter with Jesus reveals a man who is hesitant to believe, but at the same time is willing to listen.
Three different reactions to the message of Jesus. Opposition,
perplexity, and acceptance. In today's world all three reactions
still exist. Some people close their minds and hearts to Jesus and
refuse to believe, just as did Annas and his cohorts. Some are like
Nicodemus; they want to believe, but they struggle to do so. We don't
hear much about Nicodemus after that visit to Jesus by night, but I think
he began to struggle to believe that night. I think that Nicodemus
probably did come to believe in Jesus. Today some noted converts
struggle like Nicodemus did. In a sense we could call Nicodemus one
of the first converts. A convert who was converted by Christ himself.
And many of us are like the apostles. We accept the message and teaching
of Jesus and believe in him. For us, this Easter season is indeed
a time of great joy. Let us ask the apostles to help us not only
to participate in the great joy of Easter, but also to follow their example
in spreading the words and message of Jesus.
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