Summary: A sermon about light and darkness.
"Are You Scared of the Light?"
The first apartment I lived in after I graduated from college was in an old run-down apartment building in downtown Macon, Georgia.
My living quarters consisted of a small room, a bathroom...
...and since there was no kitchen, a refrigerator which was in a closet.
I didn't have any furniture, so I slept on my boss' old army cot.
Now, again, this was a really old, run-down building, and there were a lot of cockroaches.
But I hadn't a clue just how many cockroaches lived in the walls of that one-room apartment until one night, after I had gotten into the cot and turned out the lights, I jumped back out of bed because I had forgotten to do something...
...turning the lights back on...
...to my horror as hundreds upon hundreds of cockroaches scurried back to their hiding places in the dark crevices of those old walls as soon as the lights came on.
There were so many cockroaches that the walls looked like they were just a brownish black of movement.
I saw what happened in the darkness of that room as I slept night after night.
And, since there was nothing I could do about it, I decided to ignore the cockroaches.
Whenever I read John Chapter 3:19-21 I am reminded of those cockroaches, who only come out--in mass--at night...
...and as soon as a light is turned on, they flee--as fast as they can--back to the dark places.
"The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than light, for their actions are evil.
All who do wicked things hate the light and don't come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light.
Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God."
The Gospel of John uses the metaphors of darkness and light over and over again in deeply symbolic ways.
For instance, in John Chapter 1 we are told that "the light (Who is Jesus) shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn't extinguish it."
Then it says that the world came into being through Jesus--"the light"--but "the world didn't recognize the light."
"The light came to his own people but, but his own people didn't welcome him.
But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God's children, born not from blood or from human desire or passion, but born from God."
And this moves very nicely into our Gospel Lesson for this morning from John Chapter 3, which, with different words and a conversation--says pretty much the same thing.
The story begins somewhat abruptly.
We aren't told where the meeting takes place.
John doesn't do a whole lot to introduce us to Nicodemus.
We are only told that Nicodemus is a Pharisee and a ruler, a member of the
Sanhedrin--which was the Jewish ruling council.
In other words, Nicodemus was "kind of a BIG DEAL" to say the least.
And he's been watching Jesus from the shadows.
He's seen the people flock to Jesus.
He has watched Jesus perform all kinds of "miraculous signs."
Perhaps he has seen some of the healings.
Maybe he has even listened in on a few of Jesus' sermons.
He does, after all, call Jesus a "teacher who has come from God."
In any event, Nicodemus is intrigued by Jesus and wants to learn more.
In our day and age, and in church language, we would call Nicodemus "a seeker."
Nicodemus is seeking the truth.
Nicodemus is seeking God.
And so, Nicodemus is drawn to Jesus.
And in the dark of night, Nicodemus emerges out of the shadows, seeking the light from the teacher he believes has been sent from God.
And just as suddenly as Nicodemus appears, Nicodemus disappears back into the night--which, in John's Gospel represents separation from the presence of God.
But before he does so, Jesus tells him some pretty heavy stuff.
Jesus says to Nicodemus, "I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it's not possible to see God's kingdom."
Now the word Jesus uses here can be translated 3 different ways--it can be translated as "born again," "born anew," or "born from above."
But all three translations mean the same thing.
Believing in Jesus changes a person's life to such an extent that the person actually becomes a brand new creation!!!
So Nicodemus is shocked to hear Jesus tell him that he must be "born again."
"How is it possible for an adult to be born?," Nicodemus asks.
"It's impossible to enter the mother's womb for a second time and be born, isn't it?"
Yes it is.
And so Jesus goes on to explain to Nicodemus that human beings are born the first time as "flesh and blood" people.