Gospel Jn 3:14-21
The late night D&M
This segment from John’s Gospel recounts a conversation that occurred late at night between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin.
Often when discussing this encounter, commentators state that Nicodemus was visiting under the cover of night, lest he be discovered by his colleagues and accused of being a sympathiser to Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps this was the case, but perhaps also he was interested in the kind of conversation that often occurs late at night. We’ve all had these experiences when, late at night, in the silence that surrounds us, we share deeply with those around us. I like to think that Nicodemus wanted to engage Jesus in that kind of late-night deep and meaningful discussion.
This portion of the conversation has Jesus recounting a significant moment in the history of the people of Israel, when they were wandering the desert. Due some particularly rebellious activity, they were attacked by a plague of poisonous snakes. Moses, crafting a serpent from bronze raised it high on a standard, and all who looked upon it were healed.
Jesus, drawing the link between the elevation of this bronze serpent, and his coming elevation on the cross tells Nicodemus how we are to act; we ought to look up on Him crucified. When we do this in faith, this otherwise horrific scene of one man’s tortuous death becomes the very object of our hope.
It is at this point in the conversation that Jesus utters those famous words, which explain the whole meaning of his coming amongst us as a man, and his crucifixion and death, that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
Jesus asks Nicodemus, and through him he asks all of us to believe in this love, a love which is stronger than anything – even death.
Point to Ponder
So often we have a image of God as a condemning judge, yet in today’s Gospel we read that Jesus’ mission in the world is not condemnatory but salvific.
These words of Jesus are very comforting, in fact – if we believe in him and his message of merciful love we can stand
Jesus tells us that anyone who believes will not fall victim to the darkness. This is because real belief is lived out in our action: ‘whoever lives by the truth comes into the light’
Perhaps this lent we can, like Nicodemus, seek Jesus out in silence and prayer to engage in that late night D&M.