The story of Nicodemus.
March 18th, 2002
Received by H.
My dear brother,
I promised you a surprise and today I will give it to you. I would like to discuss in detail a key chapter in the New Testament, a chapter that despite its great importance has always been treated incidentally in previous messages. However, let us proceed in order.
The Passover feast was approaching. As Joseph had decided, he put an administrator in charge of his workshop, and then he went with all his family to Kpar Nahum where they met with Jesus and his disciples. They stayed overnight in Peter’s house.
On the following day the large group of people headed south. When they passed through Magdala, a band of women joined them, amongst them, of course, Mariam the Magdalene, Shusha, Yokhan, who had obtained her husband’s permission to undertake this journey, and several others, the wives of artisans, and also one or other woman who exercised a less honorable profession.
Joseph had decided to take the road along the Jordan valley, for reasons of safety, avoiding the multiple threats and harassments by the Samaritans, and joining other groups of pilgrims. The larger the group, the safer from assaults by highwaymen.
When they came to the place where John the Baptist had his camp, they crossed the Jordan to stay there overnight and throughout the following day. Some of the disciples who had never visited John were astonished by the enormous multitude of people that gathered there listening to the Baptist’s sermons. When the flow of pilgrims increased on the road towards Jericho and Jerusalem, the number of faithful people also increased, and they stayed one or more days with John.
Finally, the Galileans resumed their trip, arrived at Jericho, and from there they ascended to the mountains of Judea. They did not enter Jerusalem immediately, but stayed in the house of an old friend of the family, Lazarus of Bethany.
Joseph’s voyage had a double purpose, of which he had not spoken to anybody. Apart from his participation in the Temple rituals, he had also planned to buy a house. On one hand, he wanted to extend his business to the capital city of the Jews, and on the other hand, he did not want to spend his old days in a tiny village, and such was Nazareth. Rather wanted to live right in the center of Judaism, in his dear Judea.
At that time an enormously rich man lived in Jerusalem whose name was Buni. He had a hand in all the branches of business that you can imagine, from real estate to construction to the sale of metals. He was the appropriate man for Joseph to visit in search of a house in the city.
The two men, as was the habit of the time, spent a long time in exchanging formulas of courtesy, asking after the health of the other, until they came to the point of their business. Accompanied by a group of servants, Buni showed Joseph a variety of houses, from a shack that almost was collapsing under its own weight, and that Buni extolled as a true palace worthy of the selfsame Solomon, to a decent house that Joseph liked and that he decided to buy. Then followed the habitual bargaining over the price, until Buni’s exorbitant demand and Joseph’s ridiculous offer met halfway.
Then, over an exuberant dinner, both celebrated the conclusion of their business. It had taken the whole day, but we Orientals, we did not know hurry in business. Finally Buni glanced full of curiosity towards Joseph and asked: “Joseph, you have told me that you are from Galilee, but you do not speak like they do.”
“This is true. I was born and grew up in Judea, in Bethlehem. But now I live and run my business in Nazareth. But I am planning to spend my old days in Jerusalem.”
“A wise decision. Jerusalem is the City of God, of peace, the center of the world. But, as you tell me that you live in Galilee, maybe you may quench one of my curiosities. I have been told that there is a new prophet over there, who works many miracles. They say that he calls himself the Messiah. And now it seems that he is here preaching in Jerusalem. What can you tell me about that man?”
Joseph recognised the worry in Buni’s voice, and he felt concern. Buni, as a rich businessman, feared those self-proclaimed prophets. Their presence always meant trouble: disturbances among people, rebellions against the Romans — these political and military crises really were not good for business. However his fears and worries had much deeper roots. The Zealots, who always took advantage of the people’s dissatisfaction, would have liked very much to cut his throat, since they considered him a collaborator of the Roman oppressors. And it was true, Buni did a lot of business with them too.
Apart from being a successful merchant, Buni occupied a preferential position in the Sanhedrin, the High Council of the Jews, as one of the three senior counselors. He was a studied man, an expert in the Law and in the Scriptures. He used to frequently invite the wise men of the Law to discuss with them the topics that worried or interested him.
Joseph cleared his throat and said: “Are you referring to the man they call Yeshua ha Notzri ha Mashiakh, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah?”
“Yes, that is the man!”
“Well, to tell the truth, he is my son, Yeshua ben Yosef.”
Buni’s eyes opened with surprise. “Ah…., I see. Well, then you must know what he is preaching. Tell me of him.”
And so, Joseph, feeling sick to the stomach, told him of Jesus, the whole story, from the strange circumstances surrounding his birth, their stay in Egypt, up to the beginning of his mission. And he did not hide his own incomprehension.
Buni smiled. “Joseph, I thank you for the frankness of your words. You are a man I like very much. I would like to ask you a great favor. My servants have listened to your son when he preached in the markets, and what they told me I cannot understand. It is my desire to talk to your son. I want to discover for myself what his ideas and doctrines are. In truth, this man has awakened my curiosity. And your words soothe my worries that he does not try to incite violence, but that he rather preaches peace.”
And so it happened that Joseph arranged a meeting between Jesus and Buni in his new pride, his own house in Jerusalem. You understand, my dear H___, that I have not reproduced the exact words of the conversation, but only what Buni and Joseph have told me. Of course, I was not present during this conversation.
The Master spoke to him of the Kingdom of God, of the Love that the Heavenly Father offers all His children, well, you know already what were and still are his teachings. And Buni listened to him with great interest, but obviously without understanding. It was not surprising. We had spent months with the Master, and we did not get his deep message fully.
“I see, Rabbi,” said Buni, “that your knowledge of the Scriptures is great, and that you are a wise man. Wisdom reaches beyond knowledge. Tell me, please, how you have come to all these conclusions.”
Jesus, with a smile upon his lips, recited the following passage from the Old Testament:
“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
“This is a quote from Ezekiel!” Buni shouted in astonishment.
“Sure it is,“ Jesus replied. “And John the Baptist is already applying the water of purification, as the symbol for the moment that has come when the Lord sheds His Spirits over mankind.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
And Buni looked at him full of confusion: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”
Jesus replied: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto you, you must be born again.”
Now, my dear H___, in some Bible translations you find “born again”, and in others “born from above.” The reason for this discrepancy is simply that Jesus said in Aramaic: “Mitiled min d’resh”, that is, “born from the head,” an idiomatic expression, which may be understood as “born from above” or “born again”.
Buni still could not understand. So, Jesus continued: “The wind blows where it lists, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it comes, and whither it goes; so it is with the Spiritual Rebirth.”
Buni answered: “How is all this possible?”
And Jesus, with a smile on his lips, replied: “Are you the Teacher of Israel, and yet do you not understand these things? Verily, verily, I tell you that we speak what we know, and give testimony of that of which we were eye-witnesses, and yet you all reject our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and none of you believe me, how will you believe me if I tell you of things in Heaven?”
Jesus already has delivered a marvelous explanation of these words. Buni could not understand the workings of the wind, a material phenomenon, hence, he could not understand an operation of a spiritual thing, the New Birth. This is a play on words, since the Hebrew word “ruakh” and the Aramaic word “rukha” mean “wind”, “blow” and “spirit”. The Master loved word plays, transforming abstract contents into everyday experiences, making them understandable to the world.
I also wish to call your attention to the fact that Jesus also explains and testifies his own experience of the New Birth: “We speak what we know, and give testimony of that of which we were eye-witnesses.”
Buni still was confused, but deeply impressed. In the future, whenever there was the opportunity to do so, he would witness the Master’s discourses, and he would become his follower, but not openly. He would also use his wealth to support the Master’s growing movement, and he would become the principal person in favoring Joseph’s political-religious career, facilitating his acceptance into the bosom of the Sanhedrin.
I see, you understand that what I have told you is Nicodemus’ story. And you wonder why I have called him Buni.
Well, actually his name was Buni ben Gurion, and he was a man of great fame. Such was his reputation as a religious and rich man that even the Babylonian Talmud mentions his name. There you may read that his nickname was “Nakdimon,” and the explanation of its meaning. Nevertheless, this explanation is not true; it is only the product of the author’s fantasy, in his effort of giving some meaning to this name. There are also some stories of his life contained therein, which are false, nothing but legends. But at the base of the legends, truth often resounds. They say that Nakdimon was punished by God because he did not use his wealth as he ought to. Actually, God did not punish him. When Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas decided to cut off Jesus’ movement, they did not consider it enough to kill its leader, the Master, but they also wanted to cut all sources of support. Consequently, the movement, devoid of leadership and without source of supply, would soon end in nothing, according to their reckoning. That was the reason why Buni would perish under the daggers of murderers, and Lazarus would have to abandon his home and seek shelter outside Judea. But of all that, we will speak in another message.
Buni opposed the farce called “trial” against the Master, a solitary voice against a wall of hatred. Also this attitude did not gain him the sympathy of the Sadducees and Roman authorities. Because of his opposition against Jesus’ condemnation, people conferred upon him the nickname of “Naqiy Dam” or “innocent of the blood;” hence, his nickname has nothing to do with the Greek interpretation of his name “NikodhmoV” as “conqueror.” The nickname was selected in allusion to several passages in the Old Testament, where “dam naqiy” or “innocent blood” is mentioned, such as in the Psalms.
My dear brother, this has been a very long message. However, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to present Nicodemus, a little known character of the Bible. That interview between Buni and the Master is the only place in the whole New Testament where the New Birth is directly spoken of; it is a key passage for the understanding of the true Christian doctrine. For that reason, I apologize for the perhaps exaggerated detail of this message, but I believe that it has been worthwhile.
Now, go and have a rest, and I will write you soon another message, where our shameful lack of understanding will once again come to the light of day. Until then, I wish you all the Father’s blessings,
Judas of Kerioth
© Copyright is asserted in this message by Geoff Cutler 2013