It’s a little ridiculous how excited I am that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is back on TV after an eight year hiatus. If you aren’t familiar with the show, here’s a brief synopsis: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition highlights a family that has been hit by tragedy. A design crew and hundreds of volunteers come around the family to build them a new home, all free of cost to the family.
My favorite aspect of the program is the “big reveal” that comes near the end. The family sees their new home for the first time, is overwhelmed with emotion, and shares tears of release and joy. I am left, after watching the show, feeling good about humanity.
The gospel of John shares characteristics with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, such as familiar themes that repeat themselves with every “episode” John tells about Jesus. John’s strong narrative weaves images of darkness and light that all build to a climax. In John 3 there is an interaction between Nicodemus and Jesus at night. By the light of an oil lamp, Nicodemus hears the following words from Jesus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:14-21).
Condemned or saved, evil or good, dark or light — and all this is in the third chapter. We’re still a long ways away from John’s “big reveal!” Much later in the gospel, we get a sense that we are building to that climactic moment as Jesus prays his “high priestly prayer” in chapter 17:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you… I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:1, 4-5).
If this were Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, we’d be seeing the crew putting the final touches on the new home, the family return, and we’d be anticipating the “big reveal.” And, that’s why it’s puzzling to read what happens next, in John 18. Jesus, having just asked God to glorify him, has his prayer answered by being betrayed by a good friend, arrested by torchlight, and bound by ropes to face trial for blasphemy.
Other than a moment where Jesus’ words, “I am he” knock down his opposition, this “big reveal” is more like a huge letdown. Is this the glory Jesus asked for? Can this be what John’s narrative has been building to? This is the equivalent of the family on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition expecting a new home and getting a tent to live in instead—a major disappointment. Or, perhaps there is something more mysterious going on?
Here’s what I see in this “big reveal” that seems to be just a fizzle: Jesus is in control. He’s in the lead. You are following someone who knows exactly what is going to happen, how it’s going to happen, and just how much what you are going through right now hurts. He’s been there, too, and he’s with you right now. That’s a revelation for anyone who feels defeated, lost or unimportant.
And, what about Jesus letting Judas and the troops get back up after the “I am he” knockout? Instead of using that moment to escape, Jesus courteously allows them up to arrest him! Here’s the “big reveal” we’ve been waiting for: Jesus displays the glorious love he has for you by his restraining his strength and power, choosing to be bound and led to the cross.
Jesus’ love chose me and chose you. Free from compulsion, he could have stopped the course of events at any point along the way. John wants us to see this truth in the big reveal that seems at first to be a big fizzle: God’s love is on full display in these coming days. Are you ready? Easter is coming.
The Reverend Dr. Chris Haughee is a licensed minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
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