I love the interplay between Nicodemus and Jesus in the Gospel of John. He meets Jesus at night to avoid judgment from his fellow Pharisees because he wants time to ask Jesus some honest questions. The keeper of the Jewish customs wants to get to the bottom of what’s intriguing him about this man who speaks with such authority.

Jesus responds so patiently and kindly to Nicodemus’s candor. He communicates his mission to the world by framing it in love, which is interesting when you consider that Nicodemus was a teacher of the law. In his kindness, Jesus shows Nicodemus that in God’s universe-sized love, he gave his only Son so that whoever believes will not be condemned to an eternity without God.

What kind of love is Jesus talking about here? I know that I use the word love a little generically in order to show my affection for something: I love this kind of food, I love my job, I love this TV show, I love my hobby. This is a kind of love.

But through Jesus, God revealed the kind of love he has for us and what effect he intended that love to have on us: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

Jesus’ big reveal about the design and depth of God’s love is calling us children of God. But it’s a love that came at a massive cost, which always comes with the greatest kind of love. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Jesus says in John 15:13. This wasn’t merely an affection, a squishy feeling, or a special fondness for us. The love of God for us goes even deeper and wider than the universe itself, because “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them,” John tells us in 1 John 4:16.

Though we are born in a darkness that comprises the depths of our souls, God sent Jesus to burst through the blackness with a light that is bright enough to illuminate the farthest reaches of the universe. Jesus didn’t merely lay out the blueprints for God’s redemption; he also included God’s motivation: love. This is the thrill of hope that reemerges in our hearts every year at Advent, as we imagine the unfathomable volume of God’s love for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Ronnie Martin is lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland, Ohio. He also serves as Director of Leader Renewal for Harbor Network and is the author of seven books.

This article is part of The Eternal King Arrives, a 4-week devotional to help individuals, small groups, and families journey through the 2023 Advent season . Learn more about this special issue that can be used Advent, or any time of year at http://orderct.com/advent.

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