This is a photo of another stained glass window in the baptistery of my parish church (click on to enlarge). It depicts Jesus giving his discourse to Nicodemus. The inscription above their heads is from the discourse and reads: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter Heaven.” Note the chandelier of candles burning above the head of our Lord, symbolizing Him as the light of the world, to whom we must come, and in whom we must do deeds, as the end of the discourse insists. Jesus is gesturing towards heaven, emphasizing from whence the new birth comes, while Nicodemus, a “a teacher of Israel,” holds a scroll of the Law and ponders our Lord’s teaching.
oh 3:1 And there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
Joh 3:2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him: Rabbi, we know that thou art come a teacher from God; for no man can do these signs which thou dost, unless God be with him.
Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:4 Nicodemus saith 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 again?
Joh 3:5 Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Joh 3:7 Wonder not that I said to thee: You must be born again.
Joh 3:8 The Spirit breatheth where he will and thou hearest his voice: but thou knowest not whence he cometh and whither he goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Joh 3:9 Nicodemus answered and said to him: How can these things be done?
Joh 3:10 Jesus answered and said to him: Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?
Joh 3:11 Amen, amen, I say to thee that we speak what we know and we testify what we have seen: and you receive not our testimony.
Joh 3:12 If I have spoken to you earthly things, and you believe not: how will you believe, if I shall speak to you heavenly things?
Joh 3:13 And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.
Joh 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up:
Joh 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.
Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world: but that the world may be saved by him.
Joh 3:18 He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Joh 3:19 And this is the judgment: Because the light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil.
Joh 3:20 For every one that doth evil hateth the light and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved.
Joh 3:21 But he that doth truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest: because they are done in God.
From St John Chrysostom:
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.”
What He saith, is of this kind: “they are punished, because they would not leave the darkness, and hasten to the light.” And hence He goes on to deprive them of all excuse for the future: “Had I come,” saith He, “to punish and to exact account of their deeds, they might have been able to say, ‘this is why we started away from thee,’ but now I am come to free them from darkness, and to bring them to the light; who then could pity one who will not come from darkness unto light? When they have no charge to bring against us, but have received ten thousand benefits, they start away from us.” And this charge He hath brought in another place, where He saith, “They hated Me without a cause” (Jn 15,25): and again, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin.” (Jn 15,22). For he who in the absence of light sitteth in darkness, may perchance receive pardon; but one who after it is come abides by the darkness, produces against himself a certain proof of a perverse and contentious disposition. Next, because His assertion would seem incredible to most, (for none would prefer “darkness to light,”) He adds the cause of such a feeling in them. What is that?
+Jn 3,19-20. “Because,” He saith, “their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
Yet he came not to judge or to enquire, but to pardon and remit transgressions, and to grant salvation through faith. How then fled they? 13 Had He come and sat in His Judgment seat, what He said might have seemed reasonable; for he that is conscious to himself of evil deeds, is wont to fly his judge. But, on the contrary, they who have transgressed even run to one who is pardoning. If therefore He came to pardon, those would naturally most hasten to Him who were conscious to themselves of many transgressions; and indeed this was the case with many, for even publicans and sinners sat at meat with Jesus. What then is this which He saith? He saith this of those who choose always to remain in wickedness. He indeed came, that He might forgive men’s former sins, and secure them against those to come; but since there are some so relaxed, 14 so powerless for the toils of virtue, that they desire to abide by wickedness till their latest breath, and never cease from it, He speaks in this place reflecting 15 upon these. “For since,” He saith, “the profession of Christianity requires besides right doctrine a sound conversation also, they fear to come over to us, because they like not to show forth a righteous life. Him that lives in heathenism none would blame, because with gods such as he has, and with rites as foul and ridiculous as his gods, he shows forth actions that suit his doctrines; but those who belong to the True God, if they live a careless life, have all men to call them to account, and to accuse them. So greatly do even its enemies admire the truth.” Observe, then, how exactly He layeth down what He saith. His expression is, not “He that hath done evil cometh not to the light,” but “he that doeth it always, he that desireth always to roll himself in the mire of sin, he will not subject himself to My laws, but chooses to stay without, and to commit fornication without fear, and to do all other forbidden things. For if he comes to Me, he becomes manifest as a thief in the light, and therefore he avoids My dominion.” For instance, even now one may hear many heathen say, “that they cannot come to our faith, because they cannot leave off drunkenness and fornication, and the like disorders.”
“Well,” says some one, “but are there no Christians that do evil, and heathens that live discreetly?” 16 That there are Christians who do evil, I know; but whether there are heathens who live a righteous life, I do not yet know assuredly. For do not speak to me of those who by nature are good and orderly, (this is not virtue,) but tell me of the man who can endure the exceeding violence of his passions and (yet) be temperate. 17 You cannot. For if the promise of a Kingdom, and the threat of hell, and so much other provision; 18 can scarcely keep men in virtue, they will hardly go after virtue who believe in none of these things. Or, if any pretend to do so, they do it for show; and he who doth so for show, will not, when he may escape observation, refrain from indulging his evil desires. However, that we may not seem to any to be contentious, let us grant that there are right livers among the heathen; for neither doth this go against my argument, since I spoke of that which occurs in general, not of what happens rarely.
And observe how in another way He deprives them of all excuse, when He saith that, “the light came into the world.” “Did they seek it themselves,” He saith, “did they toil, did they labor to find it? The light itself came to them, and not even so would they hasten to it.” And if there be some Christians who live wickedly, I would argue that He doth not say this of those who have been Christians from the beginning, and who have inherited true religion from their forefathers, (although even these for the most part have been shaken from 19 right doctrine by their evil life,) yet still I think that He doth not now speak concerning these, but concerning the heathen and the Jews who ought to have come 20 to the right faith. For He showeth that no man living in error would choose to come to the truth unless he before had planned 21 for himself a righteous life, and that none would remain in unbelief unless he had previously chosen always to be wicked.
Do not tell me that a man is temperate, and does not rob; these things by themselves are not virtue. For what advantageth it, if a man has these things, and yet is the slave of vainglory, and remains in his error, from fear of the company of his friends? This is not right living. The slave of a reputation 22 is no less a sinner than the fornicator; nay, he worketh more and more grievous deeds than he. But tell me of any one that is free from all passions and from all iniquity, and who remains among the heathen. Thou canst not do so; for even those among them who have boasted great things, and who have, as they say, 23 mastered avarice or gluttony, have been, most of all men, the slaves of reputation, 24 and this is the cause of all evils. Thus it is that the Jews also have continued Jews; for which cause Christ rebuked them and said, “How can ye believe, which receive honor from men?” (c. 5,44).
“And why, pray, did He not speak on these matters with Nathanael, to whom He testified of the truth, nor extend His discourse to any length?” Because even he came not with such zeal as did Nicodemus. For Nicodemus made this his work, 25 and the season which others used for rest he made a season for hearing; but Nathanael came at the instance of another. Yet not even him did Jesus entirely pass by, for to him He saith, “Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (c. 1,51). But to Nicodemus He spake not so, but conversed with him on the Dispensation and on eternal life, addressing each differently and suitably to the condition of his will. It was sufficient for Nathanael, because he knew the writings of the prophets, and was not so timid either, to hear only thus far; but because Nicodemus was as yet possessed by fear, Christ did not indeed clearly reveal to him the whole, but shook his mind so as to cast out fear by fear, declaring that he who did not believe was being judged, 26 and that unbelief proceeded from an evil conscience. For since he made great account of honor from men, more than he did of the punishment; (“Many,” saith the Evangelist, “of the rulers believed on Him, but because of the Jews they did not confess”—c. 12,42;) on this point Christ toucheth him, saying, “It cannot be that he who believeth not on Me disbelieveth for any other cause save that he liveth an unclean life.” Farther on He saith, “I am the Light” (c. 8,12), but here, “the Light came into the world”; for at the beginning He spoke somewhat darkly, but afterwards more clearly. Yet even so the man was kept back by regard for the opinion of the many, and therefore could not endure to speak boldly as he ought.
Fly we then vainglory, for this is a passion more tyrannical than any. Hence spring covetousness and love of wealth, hence hatred and wars and strifes; for he that desires more than he has, will never be able to stop, and he desires from no other cause, but only from his love of vainglory. For tell me, why do so many encircle themselves with multitudes of eunuchs, and herds of slaves, and much show? Not because they need it, but that they may make those who meet them witnesses of this unseasonable display. If then we cut this off, we shall slay together with the head the other members also of wickedness, and there will be nothing to hinder us from dwelling on earth as though it were heaven. Nor doth this vice merely thrust its captives into wickedness, but is even co-existent 27 with their virtues, and when it is unable entirely to cast us out of these, it still causeth us much damage in the very exercise of them, forcing us to undergo the toil, and depriving us of the fruit. For he that with an eye to this, fasts, and prays, and shows mercy, has his reward. What can be more pitiable than a loss like this, that it should befall man to bewail 28 himself uselessly and in vain, and to become an object of ridicule, and to lose the glory from above? Since he that aims at both cannot obtain both. It is indeed possible to obtain both, when we desire not both, but one only, that from heaven; but he cannot obtain both, who longs for both. Wherefore if we wish to attain to glory, let us flee from human glory, and desire that only which cometh from God; so shall we obtain both the one and the other; which may we all enjoy, through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.