A Stark Contrast Between Light and Dark – John 2:23-3:21, c.f. John 4:1-42

Someone who’s been following my little series on the gospel of John pointed out that I had skipped John 3, the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. I had not intended to skip the story per se, but just had never intended to be thorough in this little study—only pointing out things as they stood out to me, as they are highlighted in my spirit by the Holy Spirit.

But for the sake of this request I went back and looked over the material in John 3 and to my great surprise, as the Spirit always does, He left for me a great spiritual nugget. I will share that with you now…

John 3 and the Nicodemus story is actually set up at the end of chapter 2 verses 23-25 where the text says:

23 “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.”

John makes the point that Jesus did not need to entrust himself to anyone because he already had the ability to see what was in the heart of each person, to see the root of their spiritual sickness and like a Great Physician, offer whatever spiritual remedy was needed.

Perfect case comes with Nicodemus in John 3. Now I want you to notice the comparison and contrast between Nicodemus in chapter 3 and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. I don’t think it is an accident that these two stories are right next to each other. Take time to read them side by side and you will see. Think of some of these contrasts…

Nicodemus is a religious leader…the Samaritan woman is a nobody, a religious loser.

Nicodemus comes in the cover of the night …The Samaritan woman confesses her sin of having multiple husbands and now living with a guy…in the broad of day.

Jesus teaches both about who he is and no matter what Nicodemus doesn’t get it…the woman however almost immediately perceives that Jesus is a prophet, and eventually she comes to believe he’s the Messiah.

In both stories the central message is about light vs. darkness, about bringing our deeds to God and exposing them, and letting Jesus deal with us in our sins and bringing them to the light.

The central passage between these two great stories occurs in John 3:19-21,

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But 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.

Between Nicodemus and the woman at the well, who came to the light? Not Nicodemus, at least not in this story. He came in the dark, didn’t understand Jesus’ teaching, and eventually left back into the dark. The Samaritan woman however, when Jesus presented her with her darkness, brought her deeds to the light, exposed them, and experiences the beauty of Jesus forgiving her and setting her heart free. She came to the light, loved the truth, and it changed her life, so much so that she became the first evangelist to the Samaritans.

Look at what she does on not one but two occasions, in 4:29, and 4:39. Two times she tells all the townspeople that this man told me everything that I’ve ever done! The thing is, they knew all about this woman too. They knew all that she had ever done. That’s why she had been shunned, forced to travel miles out of the way outside the city to get water from Jacob’s well, when she could have just of very easily gotten water in the city. She was a woman known in town. A woman with a reputation, a past.

Jesus looked into both people and saw what darkness needed to be exposed. Nicodemus for a season held on to his, but the woman at the well brought hers to the light, and not was excited that her past been brought to light, but that none other than Jesus himself loved her and showed her grace anyway.

Two stories. One great truth. Bring your stuff to Jesus. All of it. Bring your past. Your sins. Your worries. All of it. Lay it at his feet. Expose them to the light. And be set free.

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