Week 3, Day 4

Day 4: John 3:16-21

For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will 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. Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”

1. We are reading the middle of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a teacher of the law. Jesus opens the dialogue by telling Nicodemus that in order to live, one must be born again (John 3:3). Nicodemus asks the obvious question: How? Jesus’ answer lands here: one must be born of the spirit through looking to the Son of Man who is lifted up. The How is Jesus himself. The extremely famous verse in John 3:16 is here rendered for God loved the world in this way rather than the more familiar God so loved the world. This clarifies the argument that Jesus is making: God’s rescue of his people is through the sent Son. It is not a question of magnitude, but of manner. The sending of the Son was not a matter of God having overwhelming love (though that is true), but of his free choice to rescue humanity through his own personal involvement in human life and experience. The predictable disaster it that the people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. Jesus is letting Nicodemus know that their rejection of him is a matter of hiding sin. Jesus, lifted up on the cross, will expose the sin of people everywhere and at all times. Anyone who repents of sin may have a righteous life, but it will be a life accomplished by God, not by personal effort.
2. Jesus is the one and only Son, the light who exposes both the evil deeds of all people and the works accomplished by God that belong to those who believe in him.
3. We must be careful to place credit where it is due: all is accomplished by God. Just as Nicodemus and the other teachers of the day did not understand that what was needed was new birth, we today often get caught up in thinking we are alive in Christ because of a choice or a set of activities. We live in Christ because we have been regenerated, made alive through the Spirit. We must take the right lesson from John 3:16. Jesus is the means and manner of salvation. Nothing else. Our entire responsibility is to allow him to expose our deeds and the attitudes of our hearts. If our deeds are evil, we plead the blood of Christ. If our deeds are righteous, all credit to God for accomplishing them through us.
4. The exposing of the darkness and evil deeds of the world has only begun. While the light of Christ shines through Scripture and the Church, there is opportunity to confess, repent, and step into the light. There will come a day when the rising light of Christ covers every corner of the world with no exception through his personal presence. Then it will no longer be a choice, and all deeds will be revealed for judgement. Those already condemned will face their end, and those who believe in him will not be condemned– they will live forever in the light of righteousness.