Love in the Darkness
Updated: Apr 2, 2020
Throughout Jesus’s ministry we find Him constantly in dispute with the religious leaders of the day. These religious leaders were the ultimate authority on the teachings, practices, and declarations of God, and Jesus seemed to pose a threat to their way of life. It’s not hard to see the irony in this situation. The God these religious leaders were proclaiming to live in accordance with, came to earth to show them the way, and they decided to debate with Him instead.
There is a puzzling interaction in the gospel of John that stands out among all the other gospels. In this account, Jesus is interacting with a well-known Pharisee. This person would have been someone who was perceived to be holy, set apart, and an authority on all matters of scripture. However, when Nicodemus began to see all that Jesus was doing, when he began to really listen to what Jesus had to say, there was no choice but to meet Him face to face.
So in the dead of night, in order to avoid any “bad press,” Nicodemus met with this teacher of rising popularity. The record of this interaction would drastically change our view of God.
Nicodemus had lived his entire life telling people that they had to behave correctly, that God only expressed love to those who were within His nature. This was a logical way of understanding God. It wouldn’t make sense for an omnipotent Creator to do things for people who wouldn’t return the favor. Therefore, the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law ardently proclaimed to people the importance of maintaining purity at all costs.
Now, purity wasn’t too difficult for someone with money. Someone who was rich could afford to be a picky eater, and thereby obey all the food laws. Someone of importance had the opportunity to choose from a plethora of people to hang out with, and thus avoid the “unholy” people. Unfortunately, the majority of people weren’t in this class of wealth and importance.
The religious leaders thought, “Your ability to maintain a strict adherence to the Law, determines how greatly you love God.” But this man, Jesus, taught something different. Nicodemus wanted to know why.
So, Jesus explained it to him, “Unless someone is born again, unless someone has the Spirit, it won’t matter what they do, both good and bad.”
What? Not only would this statement had made no sense to Nicodemus, but it was contrary to all the beliefs that the religious leaders currently held. It was borderline blasphemy. “How could someone say strict adherence to the Law doesn’t matter? How could someone say what you do doesn’t determine your eternal destination? This doesn’t even makes sense!”
Jesus saw the perplexity within Nicodemus. It saddened Him to know that the leaders of the faith couldn’t understand the truth of God’s nature and being. Then again, it is difficult for finite people to understand an infinite God. So, Jesus did His best to explain the mystery of salvation and the love of God to this confused teacher.
“[Nicodemus,] 16 God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. 19 This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”
Even though humanity has consistently chosen darkness over light, God still brought the manifestation of His love. Because of this truth, we have to remember that our actions will never be what earns us His love, because our actions can’t earn His love. Only our faith in what His love did for us, can bring His Spirit into our hearts. Once that Spirit is truly within us, we won’t want to go back to how we were before.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What sorts of darkness have been persistent within your life? How did you face it before you were a believer, and after coming to Christ?
2. What impact does John 3:18 have in our awareness of the darkness, and necessity of Christ’s light? What does this verse have to say about Christ’s Spirit within us?
3. What can you do with the love He has shown? What does it mean to live according to His love?