Acts 5:27-33; Ps 34:2,9,17-20; Jn 3:31-36: When we are broken-hearted, the LORD is close to us. When we are crushed in spirit, the LORD saves us. The LORD is close to us because his Son too was brokenhearted. The LORD saves us because his Son too was crushed in spirit. “Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the LORD delivers him.” The only just man is Jesus. When we share in his distress the LORD God rescues us. What does it mean to share in his distress? It means that we speak the truth in love and suffer the consequences without hesitation and without fear. On days like this we may be broken and crushed, but we are happy to take refuge in the Son of God who embraced the cross for us. We are happy to trust the Father just as the Lord Jesus did in the Holy Spirit.
The Sanhedrin confronted Saint Peter and all the apostles. They refused to obey the strict orders not to teach about the name of the Lord Jesus. Instead they replied, “better for us to obey God then men!” This response infuriated the Sanhedrin and they wanted to kill the apostles. Why were the leaders of the people so violent? Perhaps because they knew, from the confidence and courage of the apostles, that they could not control them. The apostles had refused to obey their human leaders and refused to disobey the LORD. The apostles and the Holy Spirit testify even to this day that the Sanhedrin, not the lowly, simple, powerless people, raised up the Lord Jesus upon the cross, and the Father lifted him up in glory. Such truth could not be accepted by the powerful, complicated, elite, who thought they knew exactly what God would and would not do. Brokenhearted, crushed, rejected, condemned by their leaders the apostles were close to Christ, and they were saved in their distress.
The Lord Jesus concludes his conversation with Nicodemus in today’s gospel passage. The One who comes from heaven testifies to what he has seen and heard. Does Nicodemus accept his testimony? Perhaps his willingness to provide a proper burial for the broken and crushed Lord Jesus gives testimony to a certain level of faith and trust in the Father and the Son. Perhaps Nicodemus received the gift of the Spirit. This is a reasonable conclusion since as the Psalm proclaims, “The LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.” The Gospel tradition does remember Nicodemus. However, do we remember as well the conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus? In this dialogue we have overheard these past few days, the Lord Jesus reveals the division between believers and unbelievers. “Whoever believes in the Son has life eternal. Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure the wrath of God.” Although the self-judgment takes place in this life, the wrath of God still sets up an ultimate criterion for our lives. No matter how honest or dishonest our self-judgment, we cannot avoid the consequences of our disobedience. We may find the faithful presence of the Son life-giving in the holy Eucharist, but if we never pray for the conversion of the disobedient and if we never seek to testify with the Holy Spirit, then perhaps the wrath of God awaits us. Perhaps we too have begun to think that we know what God would do and not do. Perhaps we have not taken refuge in the Lord Jesus because we are not poor, brokenhearted, or crushed.