2 July 2014

John 3:16-21

“Jesus said, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’” (vv. 16-17)


As in yesterday's passage Jesus is continuing to speak to Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. Nicodemus is a Pharisee who has come to Jesus at night-time so that his colleagues on the Jewish governing council don't see him speaking with Jesus. Especially as they have just had a heated discussion with Jesus because he's upset everyone at the temple (John 2:13-20).

Nicodemus recognises Jesus's authority by the miraculous signs he is performing. But as a Pharisee his most pressing need is to make sure that he escapes God's judgement. The Pharisees preached the strictest interpretation of the law with their own rules and regulations, which were designed to ensure that no one could be condemned by accidentally breaking the law of God.

But Jesus presents a much simpler way of avoiding condemnation - Nicodemus must simply believe in him (verse 18). He has not come to judge and condemn but to rescue.

Where then does judgement lie? It is not the judge who is to blame, but the people who choose to love darkness more than light. Those who do good do not mind being seen; only those who are up to no good wish to remain unseen. People condemn themselves by wilful unbelief and bad behaviour. God, on the other hand, loves us.

John 3:16 is perhaps the most prevalent Bible reference you will see. People wear it on t-shirts and hold it up on placards at demonstrations and football matches. Yet if it remains as a Bible reference and people never look it up, they remain none the wiser. And they are left to understand Christianity only by the impression they get from Christians … who are often quicker to condemn others than perhaps God is.

To Ponder

  • Over the next few days, every time you judge somebody for their actions, ask yourself how God feels about them.
  • Basil Fawlty would have found his hotel, Fawlty Towers, much easier to run without the guests in it. How much does this apply to the Church? And what does your answer tell you about your view of judgement?
  • Should the Church point out people's sin or point out God's love? Either way how do you think it's doing?
  • How many different helpful phrases can you think of which contain the word 'light'? Which, if any, give a new insight into God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Cockling

Neil spent 20 years as a circuit minister before becoming the District Development Enabler for the Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist District. He now works full-time for the NHS as a Consultant Lead Chaplain in mental health, leading a multi-faith team of 14 chaplains working in 10 hospitals in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.