16 March 2014

John 3:1-17

“God so loved the world that God gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (v. 16)


John is a fascinating Gospel writer! Although, as a close disciple, he was very much a part of the action, he chose to write as though he was viewing what was going on from a distance and gives a commentary and reflection on the events that he has seen.

In the previous chapter he gives us his account of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) and the cleansing of the temple and finishes with these words: "But Jesus on his part … knew what was in everyone" (vv. 24-25). Then we have the story of Nicodemus coming to see Christ in the night.

Nicodemus was a scholar and teacher of rabbinic law which responsibilities placed him in the Jewish council. Unlike the other Pharisees, he recognises that Jesus has been sent by God and comes to question him when he can't be seen. They 'chew the cud' over being born again but there is edginess to the tone of Christ's responses to Nicodemus as though Jesus is becoming frustrated by this religious teacher.

'Having faith equals eternal life … Do I have to spell this out for you?'
Jesus is attempting to take Nicodemus out of the realm of rules and regulations to encourage him to see beyond the immediate and into the greater things of faith. If God in Jesus could tell what is in people then for sure Jesus could see that Nicodemus was quite capable of thinking theologically. In this passage Christ is showing us that we need to live within the freedom that a life of faith gives us.

"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes" (v. 8). In other words a life of faith is about being free to find God in all of creation and not just the bits that are confined to a specific way of life or rules. Jesus is sincerely trying to tell of God's faithfulness but in order to find ourselves close to God we have to be free and in a place where what he is saying makes sense for us. Jesus can talk about earthly things, but if we can't follow him at this level we should be able to recognise how much more difficult it will be for us when Christ talks about the things of God.

Already in his ministry Christ is talking about his end and how that will bring hope and salvation for the world. It is that hope that God will find us at our ending and bring us with Christ to eternal life that speaks so strongly of our faithful God. God's love for us is so strong, sure and constant that God has given us the Son so that we may see for ourselves, taste and relish the prospect of eternal life because of Jesus Christ.

To Ponder

  • Where do you encounter a sense of freedom in your spiritual life?
  • Do you think we value the 'freedom to be' today and if so where or how is this expressed? 

Bible notes author

Margaret Sawyer

Margaret Sawyer has worked for the Methodist Connexional Team for ten years, first as connexional secretary for Women's Network and then as the Church's equality and diversity officer. She now works to support preaching and worship in her local circuit and district.