The Gossip and Gospel of Jesus

[From the archives.]


Celebrity gossip is everywhere – supermarket checkout lines, radio talk shows, television programs devoted to nothing but the latest details of celebrities’ lives. Why do we do it? Is it to satisfy our voyeuristic tendencies, are we envious of their lifestyles, do we want to escape for a moment whatever deficiencies we think exist in our own lives? That’s for the psychologists to figure out.

What I suggest we do is watch this great little video that makes fun of all that, and which shows just how good a sport Jennifer Aniston can be about all the ridiculous gossip that surrounds a celebrity’s life, and then consider (below) how this helps us understand what we know about Jesus.

She and Ryan Seacrest and Jimmy Kimmel seem like they’re having a good time poking fun at society’s appetite for inside looks at the lives of the rich and famous. It’s hard to read the little alien guy’s take on all this.

The Night Visit

Jesus attracted this type of attention. Crowds and leaders and common people and the intelligentsia and the working class all wanted to see what this man was about.

One who came was Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council, who visited Jesus at night. A lot of people knock Nicodemus for making a night visit, as if he were trying to hide his interest in Jesus. That doesn’t make much sense to me seeing as how Pharisees were meeting with Jesus all the time, even inviting him into their homes for dinner. Instead, I think he was probably a busy man, what with all his responsibilities, and he came to visit when he had the time.

I love the way he started the conversation:

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2.)

If I’d tried this, my opening line would have been something like, “Uh, hi.” Nicodemus, though, gets a lot of meaning in just two sentences. These words are practically bursting with anticipation, the unspoken question pressing up against that last period: “Who are you, Jesus?”

Jesus knows that this is what’s really on Nicodemus’s mind and gives one of the most important answers that anyone has ever heard:

“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:13-15.)

Nicodemus was probably trying to be polite by saying that Jesus “came from God” (that is, he thought Jesus was essentially a godly man) but Jesus’ response showed Nicodemus that he didn’t know how right that was – Jesus claimed to be from heaven!  Then, he went on to make a couple of Scripture references Nicodemus must have been very familiar with: the Moses story about God bringing healing to his people (Numbers 21:2-9); and the title Son of Man (see Daniel 7 for example).

The way Jesus said all this, it should have been clear to Nicodemus that Jesus was talking about himself being lifted up for the salvation of God’s people, himself being the majestic Son of Man from the heavenly throne room.  These are audacious claims that no Jewish person in his right mind would make in front of someone like Nicodemus, a religious man and one of society’s leaders.

Today, if we were to read an article about some celebrity and they made a similar claim we’d probably think they were pulling a publicity stunt. But what if the way they lived the rest of their lives proved their claims to be true? That’s what Jesus did.

Nicodemus saw that and it changed him forever. He wasn’t ashamed if the world knew it, either. You see, at the end of Jesus’ life it was Nicodemus who stepped forward to help his friend Joseph take Jesus’ body down from the cross and place it in a tomb. Nicodemus showed everyone that he was Jesus’ man.

And on the third day Jesus rose.

His claim wasn’t so outrageous any more.

He was who he said he was.

Celebrate celebrities? I suggest we celebrate the One whose life we should really want to know about.


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2 Responses to The Gossip and Gospel of Jesus

  1. Tim, I really enjoy your blog. Thank you. I wanted to respond to this post concerning Nicodemus. I had been taught growing up that Nicodemus coming at night proves he was a coward and someone who refused to commit to Christ. A couple of months ago I read a book called Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes. This book explained something called the honor game in collectivist cultures. The book explained that Nicodemus coming to Christ at night was a sign of respect because asking question like Nicodemus asked during the daytime weeks have been seen as an initiation of the Honor Game. I highly recommend you read this book. It changed the way I understand scripture by giving me a better understanding of the culture in which Christ lived.

    Martha Burton
    Auntie M’s Bookshelf

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