THE MEETING OF THE MINDS
Peace accords, Geneva Convention, the end of the cold war, and the list could go on and on because governmental heads of states have been having the meeting of minds since the beginning of time trying to come to a semblance of peace. President Ronald Regan met with Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva summit. Both were seeking to cut nuclear weapons. Ulysses S Grant and General Robert E Lee met at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Lee came to agree to Grant’s term of surrender. This meeting brought an end to one of the bloodiest wars in American history. Fascinating historical meetings have taken place through out the centuries because polar opposite political factions come together either seeking peace and an end to bloodshed or one comes to surrender in subjugation to another. Either way, they come to have a meeting of the minds. It is referred to as diplomacy. It is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of states.
There once was another diplomatic meeting that took place between two very famous teachers of Israel. Jesus and Nicodemus represented two opposite ends of the spectrum in their belief and knowledge about God.
“There was a man named Nicodemus who was one of the Pharisees and an important Jewish leader. One night Nicodemus came to Jesus and said, “Teacher we know you are a teacher sent from God, because no one can do the miracles you do unless God is with him.” John 3:1-2 NCV
Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He lived by the strictest possible religious rules. Nicodemus represented the best in the nation. He was a teacher, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council. And yet he came seeking a meeting with “the teacher sent from God.” He came at night. Maybe he came to practice the art of diplomacy. Maybe he came to negotiate and try to meet Jesus in the middle to find a compromise to their different theological beliefs. Maybe those are the reasons he came, but what he got was the greatest salvation message known to man. John 3:16 has saved countless numbers of people throughout A. D. from condemnation. Myself included.
Jesus was and is the Son of God. Jesus was sent by God. He came to show grace and mercy and not legalism.
They were from polar ends of the spectrum. It was faith verses religion, and relationship verses legalism.
Nicodemus came on a sincere quest for truth. He had a deep religious hunger, but was blind to God’s grace and mercy. Nicodemus sought out this Teacher who performed signs that no other teacher had the ability to perform. Nicodemus recognized a teacher that was greater than himself. And because he came with his questions, we reap the benefits. Nicodemus came to Jesus and was present in the moment. He was all ears and full of questions. Because Nicodemus came with an open mind, we get instructed in the basics of salvation.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 NIV
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17 NKJV
And because Jesus revealed true salvation to Nicodemus’ sincere seeking heart, as a little girl of eight years old, I believed in the declaration Jesus told Nicodemus. I secured my future in Jesus’ kingdom.
“You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me!” Jeremiah 29:13 NCV
We live in a technological world. It is easier to email, text, inbox, message and Face Book than it is to take time out of our busy days to meet with friends and family face to face. Online sermons fill in when life takes you away from meeting with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Trust me I know. When your gone for an entire summer, that’s your option, but it still feels like something is missing. Hebrews 10:24-25 in the NIV says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” After being absent all summer, I walked into church this past Sunday and received the actual fulfillment of this verse as my church family sincerely asked about me and my family. Technology is a dangerous way from excusing ourselves from social interaction.
For those of us who don’t like confrontation and actually run away from it, it is hard to confront people who you disagree with. When we have difference of opinions, it is sometimes uncomfortable to hash things out one on one. I fear we are a generation of people who are failing in diplomacy and it will soon become extinct. We hash out disputes over social media and emails instead of being present in the moment and try to listen to each other and hear their heart. Will face to face meetings become an archaic art? “Mano y mano.” It literally means “hand and hand.” We have placed this phrase in an adversarial context, but what if we really tried to walk hand in hand with those who differ from our opinions? What if we reached across the aisle and showed the world the great love of God? That’s what Jesus did with Nicodemus, and because He did, I believe in God’s salvation.
At the point of this meeting with Jesus, Nicodemus definitely had different opinion about obtaining God’s favor than Jesus did. He believed his good works could buy God’s blessing and he taught a nation on how to practice the Law of God. But for a night out of his life, he put those beliefs on the back burner. He came with an open mind and he was present in that moment. His thoughts didn’t wander to how he could persuade Jesus to his own way of thinking. Sometimes I wonder do people really listen to one another? Do we really ever stop long enough to really see one another’s heart? I am one who is easily offended. Okay I admit it. I am thin skinned. My feelings get hurt easily. I get upset if the waitress is rude, or the sales clerk is abrasive. But do I ever walk away wondering what went wrong in their day that might have caused them to be cranky?
“So be careful how you listen. Those who have understanding will be given more. But those who do not have understanding, even what they think they have will be taken away from them.” Luke 8:18 NCV
Nicodemus did come by night, but thank God he came. He met with Jesus face to face. He asked his questions. Jesus shared with Nicodemus the heart of true salvation. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus the great and abiding love of God. “ For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son…”
Nicodemus could have been ostracized by his peers because he acknowledged that Jesus was sent by God. The bible doesn’t say if Nicodemus walked away from that meeting a changed man, but in John 7:50-51 the bible says he rebuked the Pharisees for condemning Jesus without hearing Him. The Pharisees were meeting to discuss what to do with this Jesus, but Nicodemus silenced their arguments by using their own laws.
“Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”
And even later, Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus.
“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leader. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.” John 19:38-39 NCV
I believe Nicodemus was changed through this meeting of the minds. He was changed for the better because of his exchange with Jesus. We can be changed also because of this meeting between these two teachers. The words spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus led me to believe in the Son of God. I believe that God so loved me. I believe that God gave His one and only Son to die in my place. I believe because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, I will have everlasting life. I believe I will live with Jesus forever in heaven in a home that He is preparing for me.
I encourage each of us to be a Nicodemus. Go to Jesus. Have a meeting of the minds. Go with an honest, open mind. Be present in the moment. Don’t try to convince Jesus of all the ways he can help you. Jesus already knows your need. Just lay aside your agenda and take up His agenda for the meeting. Then let Jesus tell you of God’s great love for you.