Church of England Diocese of Chichester Nuthurst

LENT COURSE 4 – THE ‘DISCIPLESHIP’ OF THE CHURCH - ALL ABOUT US

14 Mar 2021, 8 a.m.
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CHURCH NEWS – SUNDAY 14 MARCH 2021

LENT COURSE 4 – DISCIPLESHIP – FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT

Introduction

A Christian ‘disciple’ is one who is a personal follower of Christ. This week the story of the Jewish Leader Nicodemus is one of a ‘seeker’ of the truth. The theme throughout the passage in John is of ‘light’ and ‘darkness’, and seeks to show that being a disciple of Christ is to bring light and truth into our lives. Later on in John’s Gospel he recalls the words of Jesus to the Pharisees, saying ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness.’ (John 8 verse 12).

Bishop Ruth in this week’s discussion with Bishop Will emphasises that Nicodemus was a ‘good man’. He was moral, able, law abiding, and a ‘pillar of the community’. And yet, he was still a ‘seeker of the truth’, and had listened to Jesus’ preaching and teaching, and wanted to know more. As a Jewish leader, belonging to the party of the Pharisees, many of whom were violently opposed to Jesus’ teaching, he approached Jesus at night, so he would not be seen. The passage for today describes the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, and the words of Jesus to Nicodemus about discipleship, which are just as relevant to each of us today.

Bible reading: John Chapter 3 verses 1 – 21.

John, in his Gospel, focuses many times on individual encounters with Jesus, and this is probably one of the most well-known, as it contains Jesus declaration that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3 verse 16). Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, and declared his support for Jesus, saying that ‘no one could perform the miracles you are doing unless God were with him. Jesus response was not to dwell on the ‘compliment’, but to go straight to the heart of the matter, as He knew that Nicodemus wanted to know the truth. Jesus told him that he need to ‘change direction’, and to be ‘born again’ spiritually, and to embrace Jesus’ teaching.

This did not mean that Nicodemus had to reject all of his knowledge of the Scriptures. Jesus knew that he was a ‘great teacher in Israel’. Instead, he needed to believe that God loves all people, Jew and Gentile alike, and that being a disciple would require this change of direction, and be ‘born again’ of water and the spirit, through baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This visual image of Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the darkness of night and being told how to receive the light of life is an eternal image for all of us.

Nicodemus became a disciple of Christ. The Bible does not give us details of his life, but we do read in John Chapter 19 verses 39 to 42 of the role Nicodemus played at the Crucifixion. Nicodemus was there, and after Jesus had died on the cross, he went with Joseph, a follower of Jesus, to the murder scene and took Jesus’ body and wrapped it in linen, together with about 30 kilograms of spices (the amount usually afforded to a king - which Nicodemus provided), and laid Jesus in a tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane.

This message of being born again, of coming from darkness to light, and changing direction to be a disciple, recurs throughout Jesus’ teaching. Later in John’s Gospel we read that Jesus said that He came into the world so that the (spiritually) blind may see (John 9 verse 39), and that He came into the world ‘in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness’(John 10 verse 10).