Parable of Light of the World

photograph of a stained glass window of Saint Nicodemus learning from Jesus, Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Macon, Georgia, USA; artist unknown; photographed by the author, summer 2003Parable found in John 3:1-21. Gospel for Monday of Octave of Pentecost.

In the nightly visit of Nicodemus Christ explained the mystery of redemption, the means to it being faith in Jesus as the Christ. The unbeliever is already judged (verse 18) because he remains in darkness by his own free will (verse 19). Moral corruption prevents him from coming to the light (Jesus), lest his rottenness become exposed. Rather than face this he would deny revelation.

Light is the symbol of joy (luminous thoughts give us thrills), of life (light vivifies living creatures), of happiness (days of light are days of happiness). Jesus is the giver of light; in redemption He brings to the believer truth, blessing, and peace. The evangelist called the Word Light. “In him (the Word) was life and the life was the light of men,” and “The light shines in darkness, and darkness did not comprehend it” (refused to be enlightened). Christ himself repeatedly announced: “I am the Light of the world” (John 8, 9). The sense is clear. In the divine economy we must believe in Christ, to be possessed of the light of life. But this light must likewise be our moral guide, and reveal the otherwise unfathomable mystery of unbelief.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicode’mus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicode’mus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicode’mus said to him, “How can this be?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.