“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).
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Ruling Council. He was a man respected by others for his spiritual insights and his devotion to the Law of Moses. From a social and political perspective, he had made it big. But that also meant he had a lot to lose. A little bit of shame, a little bit of scandal, and he would lose it all. Such is the way of politics.
That might explain why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, under cover of darkness. He wanted to talk to this young rabbi, and as he explained to Jesus, he knew that Jesus had come from God. But he wasn’t quite ready yet to be seen learning from Jesus. He suspected, and perhaps rightly so, that if anyone found out, he would lose everything.
We might wonder if Jesus’ words here were aimed directly at Nicodemus and his clandestine meeting. “You came to me at night, under cover of darkness. But if you’re going to live by the Truth, you can’t hide. Step out into the light.”
Most Christians in America today don’t go quite so far out of their way to hide their faith. We’re not worshiping in secret, not hiding our Bibles behind bricks in the fireplace. But there are plenty of ways we inadvertently hide our faith by the way we live. Do we avoid talking about our faith for fear it will make someone uncomfortable? Do we choose entertainment that is popular but does not honor God? Do we join in with others in gossip or crude joking? If someone found out you were a Christian, would they be surprised?
Even the most dedicated disciple of Jesus would have to admit that they have fallen short. We all do. The fact is, when we live by the truth, as Jesus says, we are living with the truth that we are sinners in need of God’s grace. If what we have done has been done in the sight of God, we know that he sees people who fail to meet his righteous standard.
Yet, we also live – truly live – by the truth that Jesus has met God’s righteous standard on our behalf. He stands in our place, the sinless Son of God, and took our place on the cross, enduring God’s holy wrath for us. That truth brings us out of the darkness of unbelief and terror and into the light of faith and hope. So, we do live by the truth, and we are in the light. Because we stand in the light of grace, the things we do now are seen by God as works for his glory.
Nicodemus didn’t stay in the dark. Later on, Nicodemus opposed the other Pharisees and rulers, speaking in defense of Jesus. After Jesus’ death, Nicodemus went with Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus, an act of honor for him that was done in full daylight. Like Nicodemus, we also can be bold in honoring Jesus and showing that we are his disciples.
- How have you been tempted to “hide in the dark” when it comes to your faith? How have the choices you’ve made obscured what you believe?
- Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 1:17 say that “the righteous will live by faith.” Jesus talks here about “living by the truth.” Reflect on the connection between these concepts, and how they show themselves in the life of a Christian.
- How will you “come out of the dark” today and make it clear that you are a disciple of Jesus?