26 June 2017

John 3:16-21

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but 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)

Psalm: Psalm 24


Most of this week's readings form a run from the very famous John 3:16 through to John 4:42, only interrupted, on Thursday, by the Feast of St Peter, Apostle. Some of the Johannine material is familiar, like the story of Jesus's encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (Friday). However, other sections, notably the references to Jesus and his disciples baptizing (Tuesday and Wednesday), are not well-known at all and come as a surprise.

Like all the Gospel writers, John wrote to meet the needs of his particular Christian community. Evidently, they were struggling with the pressures of 'the world', and there was a constant issue about rival interpretations of the Gospel. The passages we encounter this week, both the very familiar material and the parts which might feel strange, need to be understood in this context.

Having just had the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee who was warily fascinated by Jesus (John 3:1-15), we get this rich passage, beginning with the text all properly brought-up Methodist children of my generation had to learn off by heart. The issue is belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and God's saving actions in and through him. He is the supreme loving gift of God, sent to save, not to condemn the world. Yet many do not believe, so condemn themselves by accepting that they will live in darkness. A very serious decision is demanded in response to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

Today also gives us the first in a run of Psalms, 24-29 (omitting 28). Psalm 24 asserts the sovereignty and righteousness of God, and the demands these majestic qualities make on people, the demand for kingly entry into what is God's domain: the whole world. Reminding us of where true kingship lies - with God alone - the world's lords and kings are seen as, at best, pale reflections of the divine true monarchy.

The hymn Shine, Jesus, shine picks up on John's themes of light and darkness, and the psalmist's picture of God's bright majesty domination over all creation.

To Ponder

  • Read John 3:16-17 several times and reflect on the depth of God's self-giving love poured out in Christ.
  • Hold together the images of Jesus lifted up, in crucifixion and exaltation (the word John uses to cover resurrection and ascension), and the royal entry portrayed in Psalm 24. What kind of lordship is God's?

Bible notes author

The Revd Alan Bolton

The Revd Alan Bolton is a Methodist minister serving in the Connexional Team with responsbility for the Church's complaints and discipline process. He is also a musician and was a member of the group producing new music resources for Methodist worship.