Apr 8, 2018

Posted by in Devotionals | 0 Comments

Nicolae and the Villagers

Nicolae and the Villagers

“Hear the words of the Lord, O house of Jacob and the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord, ‘What wrong did your ancestors find in Me that they went far from Me?…The priests did not say ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those that handle the Law did not know Me.’” (Jeremiah 2: 4-5, 8)

As we look towards Passion Week I want to share with you a very old tale*, but one that is just as relevant, if not more so, as re-cast (and arguably re-molded) by me, as a World War II story. Here is the tale: As the Nazis rolled eastwards through the Carpathian Mountains of the Ukraine they came to a village. In this village lived a young man, who was a fugitive, hunted by the Nazis. The villagers liked him well enough. In fact, they had often listened to him speaking to them. Some wanted to protect him. But as they knew (and we the readers know) protecting such a fugitive might mean death to his individual protectors, or even the destruction of the whole village. So the people went to their village leader, Nicolae, the old priest, and asked him what to do. Nicolae considered this. After some time he advised the people to give up the fugitive and save the community. Then in the village there was much relief, rejoicing and feasting, because they believed that the priest had saved the village. Unfortunately, as another consequence of this advice – which the villagers had eagerly accepted- the fugitive was led away first to be whipped and then gruesomely killed. That night an angel came to the priest and asked him, “What have you done?” Nicolae replied, “I handed him over to save the village.” Then the angel said, “Didn’t you know that you handed over the Messiah?” Nicolae, the priest, anxiously replied, “How could I have known that?” The angel said, “If you had looked in His sad eyes you would have known, but you would not go to Him.”

*This basic tale is also cited by Henri Nouwen in The Wounded Healer, chapter 2.

Questions for Group Discussion or Individual Reflection:

  • Were the villagers really saved by betraying the young fugitive?
  • The philosopher/theologian Martin Buber argues that false prophets/priests develop their message out of the wishes and desires common to themselves and their people. Do you agree? If so, then are the people as guilty as their prophets/priests?
  • Do you think this message of wish fulfilment (i.e. if you get rid of him, you will be saved) in Jesus’ day led Israel astray? What wishful messages to-day are people buying into?
  • You may recognise that this tale is a very loose re-casting of Caiaphas’ decision and the death of Jesus; as well, in my telling the Nazi occupiers are a stand-in for the Roman occupiers. Do you think Caiaphas/Nicolae was just caught up in wanting to fulfil the wishes of the crowd and in the face of a “practical reality?”(The Romans/Nazis were vicious occupiers) OR do you think Caiaphas/Nicolae was inherently evil or aligned with evil and willingly led the people astray to protect his position as high priest?
  • If Jesus came back to-day as a young hippie, if they thought He was a threat to their security, do you think the people would be willing to give Him up? Might contemporary world leaders (of, for example, The United States, Russia, China, etc.) find Jesus a national security and a personal threat and seek a way to kill Him?

Other important scripture to Consider:

Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it. For what does it profit a person, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”(Mark 8:35-36)

Caiaphas said, “Do you not realize that it is better that one man die for the people than that that whole nation be lost?” (John 11:50)

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Psalm 53: 6)     

 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write…this is to your credit… You hate the work of the Nicolai-tans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2: 1, 6)       

I, Heather Whitehouse, Ontario Chaplain, The King’s Daughters and Sons, re-cast (and it may be argued re-formed or re-molded) this mediaeval traditional story into a modern setting. I did this because I believe this new setting adds drama, let me develop the story and I believe, added relevancy for modern people. Working initially with an argument made by Martin Buber, I developed the questions. I also selected all scripture cited.

Written for Passion Week, 2018.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *