Nicodemus sought such a meeting: “He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who came from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with Him’”(John 3:2).
The metaphorical use of darkness is commonplace throughout scripture. Darkness is the initial element of chaos that made up the primeval abyss that lay beneath “The Creation Story” (Genesis 1:2). When God said, “Let there be light,” the dispelling of darkness became His first creative act. Our understanding of darkness is somewhat suppressed because God called the darkness “night” and He ordains the daily and regular succession of darkness (night) by the creation of day.
Those who would find Christ must diligently seek Him, night and day. But, like Nicodemus, many of us seek Christ in the night, only to learn Christ is best found in the light of His Church. Christ’s church is often compared to a garden enclosed and separated from the world. He takes care of it, delights in it and is often found at night in it.
Metaphorically speaking, darkness is a sign of disaster. The “Plague of Darkness” — the ninth plague — was critical in helping set Israel free, scripture tells us: “No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days” (Exodus 10:23). The “Plague of Darkness” was the turning point in the Exodus liberation story. Right after it, Pharaoh threatens Moses’ life should he see him again. Moses tells Pharaoh, “You won’t see me again.” Then the Lord tells Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh.” This is the 10th and final plague, the death of all first born sons.
Darkness is also defeat, captivity, oppression, the element of evil in which the wicked does his work. The image of darkness is also found in the Old Testament Qumran document, where it is called “The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness.”
Today, we see the horrors of evil everywhere. We read of it, about people eating people alive and others feasting on the body parts of those they have killed. One can easily blame all this on drugs and TV but it is clear to many it’s spiritual warfare between the “Sons of Light” and the “Sons of Darkness.”
In Matthew 24:29, Jesus says, “He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather His elect.” Speaking of the “signs of the end of the ages,” Christ tells Nicodemus that in order to see the Kingdom of God one must be born again.
Many cannot come to the light because they are in denial about living in darkness. So what is darkness? Darkness is the sin-filled world into which the light of the Incarnate Word of God shines. John 1:5 tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
This raises the critical question: “Why do men and women love the darkness?” The answer is they do because mankind was born into sin and is inherently evil but God wants us free to live in the light through Christ’s divine nature.
Paul tells the Colossians (1:13), “He (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son (Christ) He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Nicodemus was either afraid or ashamed to be seen with Christ so he came to Him in darkness. Whenever religion is out of touch or becomes out of fashion, it creates “A Nicodemus Effect,” which is when one comes to Christ in darkness but Jesus bade him, like he bids us, welcome anyway.
Christ shows us it is all right to come in darkness; in fact, it seems we can come to Him anytime. In doing so Christ encourages us to be born again, to make a new beginning. Although we may come weak and heavy laden, meeting with Jesus in the dark we are all quickly brought into His light.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Dr. R. Joaquin Willis