The basis for judgement: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than light...
After Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night (read: under cover of darkness), and they banter over what it means to be born again from water and Spirit, I tripped over this little line, our title today. It is usually lost, hidden in the shadow of John 3:16. People like that bit. It feels a lot more warm and fuzzy than the above, verse 19 in this chapter. Yet, as attractive as it always is to simply stop at the recitation of 3:16 and call it a day (praise God), today-Good Friday-is not a day on which we get to linger over warm fuzzies.
Good Friday exposes us to a harder edge of God's love for the world, and the world's reaction to that Love expressed in the person of Jesus. Psalm 69 opens, "Save me, God because the waters have reached my neck!" Even though Jesus, on this day, is lifted up high in crucifixion, the Psalm's characterization rings with no small degree of truth. Add to that the fact that from a physiological standpoint that a victim of crucifixion actually dies of edema and asphyxiation, perhaps the metaphor is more apt that we give it credit. Still, it all comes back to rejection. There is the rejection of the righteous in the psalm. There is the rejection of Jesus by the religious authorities, even those sympathetic like Nicodemus who chooses the shadows instead of the light in which to meet the Master. The Light is right in front of us, but today it hangs, broken, from a cross. Love itself? We have nailed it to a tree.
In the Passion of John that is traditionally read on Good Friday, Nicodemus reappears as a more sympathetic figure. He is one who attempted to advocate for Jesus in the face of his condemnation before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, and he joins Joseph of Arimathea as one of the very few who attempt to offer to Jesus' body honor that he was refused when our Lord was alive.
May we, today, remember to look for that Light-now revealed to us in resurrection-so that the shadows might hold a little less allure for us. In the end, that is truly the point of what it means to be born again...that we willingly embrace Jesus' eternal welcome to live in the Light.