The story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night (John chapter 3) is well loved for many reasons. Obviously, the gospel of salvation is clearly explained by our Savior himself (John 3:16). Also intriguing is the fact that Jesus anticipates Nicodemus’ questions about how to get into the Kingdom of Heaven (they are never stated), and that He uses gentle satire to spur Nicodemus into dropping the mask of “respectability” behind which he is hiding (John 3:10). The richness of the Old Testament episode of the exodus snake plague (Numbers 21) as a picture of the need for the Christ to be sacrificed is poignant and eye-opening.
However, a few weeks ago, my wife Autumn made an observation about the third chapter of John that I had never considered before. It is ironic that it is no secret that Nicodemus came to Jesus secretly at night because he did not want to put his personal reputation as a Pharisee and Ruler at risk! She noted that it is even more ironic that Jesus addressed the motif of darkness here in this conversation. Look at what Jesus says to Nic after the now most famous verse in the Bible:
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
– John 3:17-20 (NASB)
There is more here than Nicodemus just avoiding uncomfortable repercussions from his “in crowd” by the timing of his clandestine visit. By coming to Jesus at night, Nicodemus has inadvertently illustrated to us an uncomfortable spiritual truth. Jesus pointedly tells Nicodemus that men are by nature corrupt. It is obvious because men love the darkness and fear the Light. In other words, Jesus is making it very clear that the natural spiritual condition of the world is one of being “lost.” This is not a popular concept for those that believe that humanity (or a certain segment of humanity) can transform the world for the better through human effort! In fact, humanity in its natural corrupt state cannot even comprehend this spiritual truth. John addresses this right at the start of his Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
– John 1:1-5 (NASB)
Not only does the darkness not “get” the Light on its own, but even worse, all of us stand already condemned through our own deeds. We carry the responsibility of our misbehavior, and setting our own standards doesn’t help. In other words, changing morality (the natural law) to justify or suit ourselves does not address the injustice and victimization others suffer due to our evil deeds. However, Jesus did not leave Nicodemus in the dark! The good news shines out: Christ is the Light! And, so we see the Gospel clearly:
But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.
– John 3:21 (NASB)
For those who are in Christ Jesus, there is now no condemnation (Rom 8:1)! He who created the light and called it good in the beginning has revealed the truth to His children and calls us into the Light. We are drawn to Him and welcome his commandments in obedience. Though the light reveals our sin, we respond in repentance and faith. We acquire new lives by believing in Jesus’s death and resurrection. In return, Jesus gives us the Spirit to work in us (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10), so we can live by the truth, (2 John 1-2, 4; 3 John 1, 4). And through the Spirit, our minds and lives are transformed and regenerated so that we live in the Light and no longer seek to dwell in darkness (Rom 12:1-2).
What about you? Are you living in the Light?