Walk Into the Light
Walk Into the Light
The second Sunday of Lent finds us overhearing a night time conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. We might think of ourselves as a fly on the wall as a leader of the Jewish people seeks to understand and learn more about what Jesus is teaching. An encounter which prepares us to continue our Lenten journey.
Scripture: John 3: 1-17
When we look at John’s gospel, we find a different representation than what is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John is writing his gospel account much later and appears to have influences of Greek philosophy intertwined with themes from Judaism. For John, “The “world” is the lower story, a sphere of hate, darkness, falsehood, slavery, and scarcity. The “world” for John is thus not just the creation, teeming with humankind, animals and other natura but is a sphere of existence that lives in pain with only partial knowledge of God. Inhabitants of the world die.”
“The upper story is heaven, centered around God. It is a sphere of life, light, truth, freedom and abundance. God reveals the possibility of heaven through Jesus. Eternal life is an essential quality of heaven.” (Ronald Allen – Commentary on John 3:1-17 – Working Preacher from Luther Seminary) John appears to be influenced by Greek thought and philosophy which has influenced much of modern western European thought. A dualistic approach to understanding the story of the gospel.
It is with this sense of dualism that we approach the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. What we find in the conversation is a lot of above and below, before and after, born and born again.
The imagery found in this passage is fascinating. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. The next time we see Nicodemus it will be day. A journey occurs from the darkness of not knowing to the light of understanding. In many ways the path that Nicodemus is on, mirrors our own. As followers of Christ we journey from a place of shallow understanding where we live in the dark, to the gradual illumination towards God plan and what that means for our lives.
The message that Jesus is sharing is that it is essential to be born from above. What does that mean exactly? Is it a literal birth? Baptism in the sacrament that we have which can help us understand what this new birth might look like. A powerful moment of understanding and awakening. Clearly we can’t be physically born twice. What Jesus is alluding to is an awakening towards Gods plan for creation.
What is that plan? It is centered around love and the words we find in John 3:16. “God so loved the world he sent his son.”
This is very different to how the world operates. Jesus comes to clarify, teach, correct, and to demonstrate that love, community, forgiveness, and grace are the themes which should dominate our lives. Jesus comes to teach this because what God is observing is the opposite of this. Gods choice to interact in human life is radically different than how society tends to operate.
When things don’t go our way, we tend to escalate. We respond through often violent or damaging interactions. Several years ago I heard a radio ad for a lawyer. The premise of the ad was if something on your neighbours yard caused damaged to your yard, you should call the lawyer and they would sue your neighbour and get you lots of money. That’s the message we hear in society and it is the opposite to how God reacts. We damage, tear down, threaten, hurt, and divide. God through Christ, heals, repairs, calms, loves, and unites.
Human logic says that when we find ourselves frustrated and angry, we should act in a spirit of disunity. We are encouraged to react with anger or to tear things down. But, God does not act in this way. God choses to respond with love.
The invitation we find in this passage is to accept the offer of welcome and love that God provides. To turn towards the values of heaven, grace, love, and mercy. And then to experience a more illuminated life with Christ Jesus.
Mind bending conversation. It can be hard to keep up at times with what Jesus and Nicodemus are going on about.
Chelsey Harmon writes, “Nicodemus wondered how it was humanly possible to be born from above, and Jesus tells him it is not. But, believing becomes humanly possible when you’ve been born from above.” (Chelsey Harmon – John 3:1-17 – Center for Excellence in Preaching (cepreaching.org))
I saw a picture of a church sign. It read, “You’re a temple, not a courtroom. Don’t judge.”
The message of Jesus isn’t one of judgement and condemnation. It is a message of love.
If that is the message that Jesus has for the world, then we need to work hard to ensure it is also the message we have for the world. Of course, it’s difficult. It’s far easier to build barriers or walls, to use our judgement or disapproval of individuals and group to strengthen those barriers. After all walls, fences, and gates keep us safe.
And yet, the message we receive is “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.”
Saved. Saved from what? From judgement, from misunderstanding, from division, from indifference, from intolerance.
God loved the world enough, the Jesus came to demonstrate a different way. As we travel through this season of Lent, may that love illuminate our paths. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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