For God So Loved…

Read John 3:16-26

Yesterday we talked about how, throughout John’s gospel, night and darkness represent stumbling and sin and blindness to the need for salvation… and in this story Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Interestingly, the word in the original text that we translate as night, can also be translated as, “the time of moral stupidity and darkness” So, you could say that out of the moral stupidity or darkness of his life Nicodemus came to the Light of the world. And Jesus, the light of the world, exposed Nicodemus’ own need for salvation along with the need of all those living in darknessJesus doesn’t simply expose the darkness, he offers the way out of it. Jesus must have just been to a football game and seen it on a sign in the crowd or something because he quotes John 3:16 to Nicodemus. He says,

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Because that’s really it, isn’t it? When Jesus’ light shines in the darkness and exposes our dirt and grime and sin and our need for salvation… he doesn’t do so in order that he can point a finger of condemnation and shame. Instead, it is quite the opposite Jesus’ light shines into even the darkest places of our lives, exposing our need for salvation so that he can extend his hand to us in grace… that we might be drawn out of sin and death and into forgiveness and life. As it says in verse 17,

17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

I think its interesting as we look at this gospel story and this strange story from Numbers that God does not remove the evil or the threat that it poses in either story. Darkness and evil and sin remain in the world, but God offers the light in the darkness, the solution to the crisis of evil, the way of salvation… so even though the threat remains, when we come face to face with sin and evil and death, because we have been shown the way, we look in faith to Jesus who is the light, who is the solution, who is the way.

The next time we meet Nicodemus in scripture is in John 7. The Jewish ruling council was holding an emergency session to try to determine what to do with this Jesus who was stirring up so much trouble. This time, John mentions him as “Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them…” he wasn’t yet fully living in the light… he had not yet let go of his status and position of power (even though the light had exposed his role in that position for what it was) but in this emergency meeting it seems like Nicodemus decided to step further into the light. The council was plotting how to get rid of Jesus, but Nicodemus, even though he was silenced quickly by his peers, spoke up on Jesus’ behalf. Learning to follow Jesus is an ongoing journey. It was for the 12, it was for Nicodemus and it is for all of us. Sometimes it just takes time to learn to live into the new identity we find in Jesus… it takes time to let go of our old way of living and live the new life we have been given by God’s grace. Nicodemus stepped further into the light that day, and the next time we meet him in scripture John describes him much differently. He no longer travels by night, he is no longer one of them… in chapetr 9 John says,

Joseph of Arimathea (he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, because he was intimidated by the Jews) petitioned Pilate to take the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission. So Joseph came and took the body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Jesus at night, came now in broad daylight carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.

Nicodemus was learning to walk as a child of the light… and Jesus wants the same for us. So I pray for each one of us that we might claim the truth in the words of this old hymn:

In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

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