Heading into the LIGHT direction- 4th Sunday in Lent – John 3:14-21
This text forms part of the discourse that Jesus has with Nicodemus. It begins with 3:1 and extends to 3:21. The Gospel text of today brings to a close this discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus. It is to Nicodemus that Jesus quotes these lines that have become the much loved central message of Christian life. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
God did not just give us ‘a son’; if He did, our salvation would never have taken place. He gave us ‘His Son’ to be our Saviour with a clear mandate that believing in Him we would have eternal life. Not only is the Son given but His purpose is set clear. Just as the purpose of commanding Moses to erect a serpent on a pole was to save the people from death so also believing in Jesus, the world will have life and death will be defeated.
John 3: 16 is Jesus’ big announcement; that He came to save us all, at God’s bidding. All this happened because God loves the world. It is as if Jesus is saying, ‘I’m here because the God who loved you of old, still does. He sent me to tell you, to show you, to gather you up into life with him forever.’
But this saving action on the part of God also has a demand. We are called to believe in the Son’s name so that we may not be condemned. The love of God also demands that we walk in the light and not live as children of the darkness. In short, believing in Jesus must involve a change of heart; a movement from darkness to light.
As Christians, the question that crosses our mind is, can we really stay neutral in the midst of wrongdoing? Should we fight this rapidly growing darkness that threatens to constantly invade our life? For St John, belief in Jesus cannot be a neutral decision. A Christian is called to make a choice between believe and dis-believe, between the darkness and the light and between succumbing to evil and doing what is true.
In John chapter three, we encounter Nicodemus who seeks Jesus by night. On this occasion Nicodemus leaves the presence of Jesus but he is still in confusion and doubt. He will reappear in John 19:39 to help care for Jesus’ body. In time Nicodemus emerges from the darkness of doubt into the light. The ministry of Jesus greatly impacts his life to make a choice for the light.
So also the Samaritan woman in John chapter four, whose long conversation with Jesus ends in a tentative belief, yet far from the immoral life where she first began. Clearly there is a movement from darkness of moral sin into the light of Christ. Or consider the blind man healed in John chapter nine, whose move from darkness to light happens rather quickly in physiological terms, but more slowly in terms of identifying Jesus. Eventually he moves from sight to insight.
In all the three cases, the inner transformation may seems slow but it is heading into the right direction; into the light of Jesus. Lent is that time when we make a conscious decision to be “lifted up” from darkness and believe in the name of Jesus as our Saviour; a belief that is matched with a change of life. Often that movement may seem slow. The temptation is often to go back to the “flesh pots of Egypt” as the Israelites demanded of Moses. This is the challenge of Christian life.
So while John 3:16 may be romanticized by some Christians as a mere slogan to be plastered on every pillar and post, the demand of Christian living must be also found in verse twenty one. For thus says the Lord, “He who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.”
Fr Warner D’Souza
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