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Laetare Sunday

Matthias Stom, Jesus Christ and Nicodemus, 1640 and 1650, ©Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt

4 Mar 2024

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’
John 3:14

Nicodemus appears only in the Gospel of John. At the end of the Gospel he helps prepare the body of Jesus for burial. The passage we have today is from the middle of the third Chapter of John. At the beginning of the chapter Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. He was a Pharisee and a member of Sanhedrin. According to one scholar, Nicodemus probably was impressed by the miracles of Jesus but was not fully convinced that he was the Messiah. So in coming to Jesus at night might have been a way for him to take the next step in believing Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus and Nicodemus have a dialogue right before today’s gospel passage about being born again from above: "Unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God." And the beginning sentence of the Gospel about the Son of man being lifted up "so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" is the preparation for the most quoted phrase in John’s Gospel (3.16) "God so loved the world that he gave his only son that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."

©Marquette University, Wisconsin

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