THE ILLUSTRATION OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS
Have you ever played Hide and Go Seek? It was one of the after-supper games that the children in our neighborhood would play. The way we played it, as kids, was with one “seeker” who was chosen for the first game, and the position rotated so that each of us had at least one turn. The rest of the children were “hiders”. The seeker would begin by closing his eyes, then counting to one hundred loudly, giving the hiders time to find a place to hide. For those who couldn’t count that high, they could count to ten for each of their ten fingers. When the seeker finished counting, he would say loudly, “Ready or not, here I come!” Then the search began. The winner was the last one found. At first it was pretty easy to find the hiders, but as the evening wore on, it became darker, and finding one another became harder. That was because the darkness became part of your hiding place, and you could sometimes even move to another hiding place without being seen (which was against the rules but nobody would know). When our parents called us in to get ready for bed, it always seemed that it was at the time when the game was becoming the easiest for the hiders and the most challenging for the seekers.
The darkness had become our friend. While the sun was out, it was our enemy, so to speak. The sun made it harder for us to hide because there weren’t as many good hiding places. We could too-easily be seen. But the darker it became, the more we blended in with the darkness. That’s why some of the kids wore dark clothing. They were more obvious when the sun was out, but when the sun was going down they were better able to blend in with the darkness. Our parents realized that the darkness could also be our enemy, causing us to stumble or bump into things and get hurt because we couldn’t see where we were going. That’s why they called us to come inside, even when we didn’t have school the next morning.
I’ve just shared about physical light and darkness, and their affect on our game of Hide And Go Seek. Jesus is concluding his conversation with Nicodemus by talking about spiritual light and darkness. He’s going to tell Nicodemus why many people don’t want to be born anew by the Spirit of God, and why they do not want to admit their own sinfulness and hopelessness, and look to Him in faith.
I. THE VERDICT (verse 19)
Verse 19 says: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” The Lord Jesus is calling Himself “the light who has come into the world” People don’t want to be born again by the Spirit of God. They don’t want to recognize their sinfulness and helplessness, and look in faith to His Son for forgiveness and healing. They like their evil ways and don’t want to give them up.
Of all the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah was the best known, and his writings were the most-often read. The reason for this was his focus on the coming Messiah. His words were a source of hope, joy, and expectation. I’m sure that Nicodemus had memorized many portions of Isaiah, and as Jesus talks to him about light and darkness, those Scriptures are coming to his mind, and Jesus knows that this is happening. In the book of Isaiah, the Messiah is often referred as a “light in the darkness”. For example, Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” Another Messianic prophecy in Isaiah is Isaiah 60;2,3: “For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Jesus’ words and His judgment were not unfamiliar to Nicodemus. He also remembered Scriptures referring to light and darkness in the psalms.
Through these illustrations, Jesus is saying that He didn’t come into this world to judge, but to save. However, people are judging themselves when they refuse to turn from their darkness and respond to His light. William Barclay shares an illustration that brings the point across. A visitor was being shown round an art gallery by one of the attendants. In that gallery were certain masterpieces beyond all price, possessions of eternal beauty and unquestioned genius. At the end of the tour the visitor said, “Well, I don’t think much of your old pictures.” The attendant answered quietly, “Sir, I would remind you that these pictures are no longer on trial, but those who look at them are.” That man’s reaction demonstrated his own blindness to beauty and talent.
II. THE EXPLANATION (verse 20)
In verse 20, the Lord Jesus explains more fully what He said in verse 19. Here are His words: “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” The light that Jesus is referring to is Himself, “the light of the world” He’s not using these words in a physical or intellectual sense, but from a moral and spiritual perspective. He’s telling Nicodemus that, in spite of the fact that God loves the world so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for their sins so that they might have forgiveness and a new life, the vast majority of the people do not want to come to Him. In their pride they are saying, “I like living in my sin. Leave me alone! Don’t expose me to the truth because I don’t want to hear it!” The word “hate” is a very strong emotion and choice. It’s directed not only toward it’s revealing effects, but also to its Source. They don’t want to see themselves as they really are. Therefore they don’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. It’s a self-imposed spiritual blindness and darkness. In the Old Testament, darkness (in a spiritual sense) is a place where the light of God does not shine. Jesus has given Nicodemus a description of those who will not come to the light, as well as the reasons for that choice. The apostle Paul gives a description of such people when he speaks to Timothy about the last days. “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (II Timothy 3:2-4). That’s quite a description!
I found an illustration that fits that description to some degree. The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong distain for “religious” things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever – the best in the entire county. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.” (William F. Brown in Making Sense of Your Faith)
III. THE ALTERNATIVE AND THE INVITATION (verse 21)
Verse 21 gives the last words recorded by John of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. The Lord Jesus says, “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” Nicodemus did “come to the light” (Jesus), even though it was under the cover of darkness. This act shows a desire to want to know the truth about Jesus, but his understanding is unclear. He hasn’t acknowledged that Jesus is the Messiah because there has not been a response of worship, repentance and obedience. There has been no evidence of change in his life and no commitment to follow Him. I sense that an invitation is being given to Nicodemus by Jesus. The next step in his life is to be born again by the power of the Spirit of God so that he can manifest the glory of God in his life.
The conversation ends abruptly there. John records no parting remarks. He leaves it there and moves on. We aren’t told the affect this meeting has had on Nicodemus. There don’t seem to be any immediate results. Nicodemus goes back home and his life continues where it left off before this meeting. He has much to think about and sort out in his mind.
In 1964, Billy Page wrote a song and his brother Gene arranged it. The song was originally performed by Dobie Gray in 1965 and became a big hit here in the USA and in the UK. The name of the song is “The In Crowd”. Here are the words to the first stanza:
I’m in with the “in-crowd”; I go where the “in-crowd” goes.
I’m in with the “in-crowd”, and I know what the “in-crowd” knows.
Anytime of the year don’t you hear; dressing fine, making time.
We breeze up and down the street; we get respect from all the people we meet.
They make way day or night; they know the “in-crowd” is out-of-sight.
Nicodemus is leaving the presence of Jesus to go back to the “in-crowd”. As a Pharisee, and especially as a leader in the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus is in the “in-crowd” of Jewish society at that time and place. The words of that song ring true for him. But if any member of the “in-crowd” found out that Nicodemus had a personal meeting with Jesus, he would be out of the “in-crowd” in a hurry! Make no mistake about that!
Nicodemus is “out-of-sight” alright! He makes a comment about following God’s Law when his associates are making accusations about Jesus in John 7:50-53, and then we don’t hear about him for over two years! I believe that Nicodemus was there, together with the other rulers, watching Jesus die on that cross (Luke 23:35). It would have been obvious to him that Jesus’ illustration of the serpent on the pole was being fulfilled before his eyes. Did Nicodemus become a follower of Christ? I’m convinced that he did. He wouldn’t have gone along with Joseph of Arimathea to request the body of Christ from Pilate, and he would not have spent a fortune for aloes and spices in order to give Jesus a King’s burial if he wasn’t convinced that Jesus was his Messiah (John 19:38-40). He was no longer a member of the “in-crowd”. He had become a child of God and was now a member of God’s family: the fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ.
There is much that we can learn from Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus. For one, Jesus’ life was a major part of His witness. Nicodemus was impressed with Jesus and with His method of teaching. He wanted to meet Him and talk to Him personally. By welcoming Nicodemus, showing respect and listening to him, Jesus was given the privilege of responding to him. and focusing on his deepest need. Jesus let Nicodemus know that there was a cure for his deepest needs, even though Nicodemus didn’t express them. Everyone needs a cure for sin and its effects on their lives, and Jesus pointed Him to the only cure. Jesus kept His presentation simple, using physical illustrations that were familiar to Nicodemus in order to help him understand spiritual realities. Most importantly, Jesus stressed the love of God for him. God’s love for him and for the world was Jesus’ primary focus. That’s why God provided a way to Himself through the shed blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why Nicodemus would give up what he had and become a follower of Jesus Christ. Let’s keep those principles, demonstrated by Jesus, in mind and follow His example in witnessing.
There are also lessons to be learned from Nicodemus. What I’ve learned this week is that Nicodemus was an exception to the rule. He was not the typical Pharisee and Ruler. But every person has the potential of being an exception to the rule by the grace of God. Look at the apostle Paul! So don’t give up on people. Love them, take an interest in them, befriend them, listen to them, and pray for them. Remember that you also have the potential of being an exception to the rule by the grace of God.
CONSTRUCTION SITE :
Welcome to this completed work site: John 3:19-21. It’s time to move to the site next door as we keep working our way down the block. John the Baptist designed the next building for us, and it’s time to follow his blueprint and enjoy seeing what it looks like with each working day. Please come back again soon or visit other completed messages on this blog. May God shed the light of His Word on your life and cause you to shine brightly for Him, as He lives and reigns in you.