Cedar Springs United Methodist Church
140 S. Main St.
Cedar Springs, MI 49319
In the movie Shrek, when Donkey thinks that Shrek has been mortally wounded, he says, “If you see a long tunnel, stay away from the light.” Of course, Shrek was fine, but why would he say that? Why would his friend say, “Don’t go towards the light?” Historically, light has been associated with the presence of God, and darkness with his absence. In many documented near-death experiences, people have described a bright, warm, comforting light. We see this theme of light and dark also played out in the Gospel of John. The Christ, the Word, is greeted in the opening verses of the Gospel, The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
During this season of Lent, we often hear the story of Nicodemus—a story that is very similar to that of many Christians in our world today. It is a story of growth, and a story of hope. We first encounter Nicodemus just before we hear the classic words of John 3:16. We are told that he approaches Jesus at night. Just like many people today who are walking in darkness, Nicodemus comes to Jesus looking for guidance and direction.
The author of John tells us that Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ questions by teaching him that he must be born again—born of the Spirit. We aren’t told how Nicodemus responded, but I picture him scratching his head, not completely understanding, as he walks back into the night.
But there is hope. Nicodemus appears again later in the Gospel of John. This time he is with his fellow Pharisees as they mock the temple guard for failing to arrest Jesus. Nicodemus, in his own, still incomplete way, stood up for Jesus. He asked his colleagues to give Jesus a fair hearing and questioned the legality of their actions. I can see the signs of a growing faith here—of the Spirit within him. He is willing to speak up for Jesus, in the light of day.
Our final experience with Nicodemus is at the very end of the Gospel of John, right after the crucifixion of Jesus. Nicodemus was there, with Joseph of Arimathea, to collect and care for the body of our Savior. This man who had first gone to Jesus in the dark, went to the cross to take the lifeless body, wrapped it with spices and linen and helped to lay him in the tomb. Those words that Jesus spoke to him must have been ringing in his ears: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16.
Approaching the light of Christ can be a powerful theme during this season of Lent, as we journey with Jesus to the cross. How do we stand up for Jesus, even in very little ways? Do we take these actions in the light of day? The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. May we embrace the light of Christ as we prepare to celebrate his resurrection on Easter.