Love speaks face-to-face
John 3: 16 (NRSVA)
16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
I am surprised that Jesus says these well-known words of hope and promise in a face-to-face conversation with Nicodemus. They are not spoken to his handpicked disciples, who have chosen to follow him at the beginning of his itinerant lifestyle, but to a Pharisee, a member of the ruling council, who comes to Jesus at night with a trusting and questioning heart. With his open attitude, he is out of step with his colleagues in the Temple, who would become so disquieted and threatened by what Jesus will go on to say and do that they condemn him to die a cursed death on a cross.
Nicodemus’s open heart would lead him to: stand up for Jesus amongst the Chief Priests and Pharisees who sent guards to arrest Jesus; go with Joseph of Arimathea to collect the body of Jesus; enact one tender ministration of worship by wrapping Jesus’ body with spices, in strips of linen, before placing it in the garden tomb.
Jesus was and is always looking for men and women of tender, truth-seeking hearts, who are willing to be taught, willing to be brought alive by the Spirit of God to new life, new vision, new commitment, new friendships and loyalties. So that the Kingdom of God will be seen through us in the present moment amongst the communities in which we live.
Thank you for your openness of heart towards Nicodemus, and towards us as we come to you a little scared, uncertain of who you really are and what you will require of us.
You entrusted Nicodemus with the central truth of God’s purposes in the world: to love it back to life through the mystery of your life and death for us. Nicodemus’s actions are a sign of his love for you. Your resurrection heralds hope that love wins and hate is defeated — how excited Nicodemus would have been at the news.
Write this thought deep in our hearts: ‘God, you love us and you love this world.’ That we might live each day out of this truth: ‘We are deeply loved.’