Summary: A funeral sermon for Jesus of Nazareth, reflections of Nicodemus the Pharisee. A short Good Friday sermon
I want to thank you all for coming to my house tonight. I know that it was not easy for you to do so considering the horrible events of this day. I know that you fear the retribution of my fellow Pharisees and for you to bring yourself to the house of a Pharisee on this night of all nights demonstrates your incredible love for this man who was executed on this terrible day. Not only are you breaking the laws of the Sabbath, but you have put yourself at harm by being here for a memorial service for Jesus of Nazareth.
Many of you don’t know me because I have been too much of a coward to follow Jesus openly as most of you have done, so let me introduce myself. My name is Nicodemus. I wish one of Jesus’ closer friends could be here to offer words in memory of Him. I’m sure you can understand their fear. If Peter, James, John, or one of the others that are known to have been close associates of Jesus were to be seen by the authorities at this time, they very well could be executed as Jesus was. There’s been enough bloodshed.
Most of you know Jesus better than I, but let me share some words of what Jesus has become to me. I met Jesus three years ago when He was here in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover after He had first begun His ministry. I had heard of the signs that He had been doing – healing the sick, turning water into wine, and so many other wonders. Because of these signs I knew Him to be from God and wanted to hear from Him. I went to Him at night because I was a coward. My Pharisee brothers were skeptical and some hated Him even at that time. They feared Him because He did not cower under our pious religiosity. He refused to accept our authority as the spiritual leaders of the people. But for me, His miracles piqued my curiosity.
The meeting that night just confused me even more about Him. On that night, He told me “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” I couldn’t understand what He meant by that. It’s impossible even for a newborn to return to his mother’s womb, how then could a grown man? I left Him that night wanting to be born of the Spirit as He said, but completely bewildered about what that meant. Surely, God would look favorably upon me because I meticulously followed the laws of Moses. I tithed and observed all the festivals, brought my sacrifices to the Temple, and even served God as a member of the Sanhedrin. Wasn’t that enough? I left Him that night, slinking out in the dark, hoping that none of my brothers would see me. But He has been constantly on my mind since that time.
He was a man I would never forget but I wasn’t quite ready to follow Him. I had a position after all. I was important and if I was to speak up and ask my fellow Pharisees to have an open mind about Jesus, to seriously investigate His teachings and His complaints against us, I would have lost everything. I would have become a pariah. They would have figuratively sent me out into the wilderness like the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement. I wasn’t ready to commit my life to Jesus, so I took the safe route of keeping my mouth shut.
Even though I couldn’t bring myself to follow Jesus, I continued to listen for reports of what Jesus was doing. And what amazing things I heard! He controlled the wind and the waves. He fed thousands of people with just a small amount of food. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk! I couldn’t accept that He was possessed by a demon as the other Pharisees wanted to believe. These miracles had convinced me that truly He was from God, and I began to openly defend Him. He was here in Jerusalem last year at the Feast of Tabernacles. Although He came secretly to avoid scrutiny, He spoke up at the Temple. The Sanhedrin wanted Him arrested because He had healed a man on the Sabbath, breaking their interpretation of the Law. Guards were sent to arrest Him but came back empty-handed, mesmerized by His words of authority. I spoke up for Him that day among the members of the council, pointing out that the Law requires a man to be heard before being judged. But still I kept quiet about my growing belief that He was truly a man sent from God.