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August 1, 2021 | Javan Shashaty
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“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”—John 3:21 (NIV)
If you ask people around the world to recite a Bible verse, there’s no doubt the most common response would be John 3:16. It’s easily the most well-known verse in the Bible . . . and with good reason—it’s the entirety of God’s work and plan in less than 30 words.
This famous verse comes to us from an encounter between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. This man was no ordinary Pharisee. He was a member of the Jewish ruling council, otherwise known as the Sanhedrin. Now, the first thing that sticks out about their interaction is that it took place at night. Why would Nicodemus approach Jesus secretly in the middle of the night? More than likely he was afraid of what associating with Jesus would do to his status among the Pharisees.
As you may know, Jesus and the Pharisees didn’t have the best relationship. The interactions found between them in the gospels usually involve Jesus calling the Pharisees out on their hypocrisy or the Pharisees trying to discredit Jesus. In one instance, Jesus actually calls them “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27 NIV). So, it’s no wonder this curious Pharisee, this ruler who must have been searching for more than what his religiosity had given him, would secretly seek Jesus, whose revolutionary teachings captivated the crowds and caused quite the stir amongst the Jewish people.
What golden nugget does Jesus offer this wondering and wandering Pharisee? He warns him, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3 NIV). If you’re anything like Nicodemus, a man of intelligence and logic, you’re probably thinking, What? How can someone be born again? Doesn’t make much sense, right? And Jesus goes on to explain how just like we’re born physically, we must also be born spiritually. Before Jesus came, we were all spiritually dead because of our sins (Ephesians 2:1–5).
And now, the most important question comes to the forefront . . . What do we have to do in order to be born again? How can we become alive spiritually? The answer is in John 3:16! Believe in the Son, the One sent by God because of His love for us. This must have been a complete shock for Nicodemus. You see, all of his life, he’d been trained to believe that his entry into God’s kingdom depended on his behavior and right standing with God. But the truth is, this was an impossible task because mankind could never do enough to earn right standing before God. Our sin created an unbridgeable gap between God and us. But now, Jesus comes along and tells Nicodemus all he needs to do is believe in the Son—have faith! This is the truth of God’s Word, the truth of God’s plan of salvation.
In today’s verse, Jesus ends His conversation with Nicodemus saying, “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.” One of the running themes in the Gospel of John is the contrast between darkness and light (John 1:1–11, 9:4, 11:10, 13:30, 19:39, and 21:3). Here, in the dead of night, out of the darkness of his life and religiosity, we see Nicodemus come into the light of the world! This moment was a new beginning for him, a springing to life. And it didn’t fade once he parted with Jesus . . . we see his name mentioned later in John as someone who came and helped bury Jesus’ body in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. He even brought “myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds” (John 19:39 NKJV).
Today, every single one of us has the opportunity to come into the light, to leave the darkness of uncertainty behind. All we need to do is believe in the truth of God’s Word, which says, “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 2:4–5 NLT).