“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.” (v. 16)

John 3:14-21 Sunday 15 March 2015

Psalm: Psalm 107


Today's passage contains probably oneof the most famous verses in the whole of the Bible: John 3:16. Formany Christians this one verse expresses so much about the natureof God that they reproduce it on countless posters, banners andeven tattoos. However, it is part of a longer dialogue that beganin John 3:1 when Nicodemus, "a leader of the Jews", came to speakto Jesus. We are told that he came "by night" (John3:2), presumably because he did not want others to know that hewas meeting this radical new preacher. This context of a nocturnalmeeting brings into sharper focus what Jesus has to say later aboutdarkness and light (verses 19-21): a man seeking the 'light of theworld' feels he has to come by night. This theme of light and darkis one that runs through much of John's Gospel (John1:1-9).

During the dialogue, Jesus alsomentions a rather obscure incident in the Old Testament, when"Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness" (v. 14, referringto Numbers 21:5-9). This took place during theExodus, when the Israelites were led by Moses out of Egypt into thewilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. Thepeople were suffering greatly from poisonous snakes and so Godinstructed Moses to make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole.All those who had been bitten and looked upon the serpent werecured. Many commentators believe that Jesus wanted hishearers tounderstand that in the same way he, "the Son of Man" (v. 14) mustbe lifted up on a cross to heal the world of its sins and reconcilehumanity to God. The meaning may have been clearer in the languagethat Jesus spoke, Aramaic, where the same word had connotations ofbeing lifted up for crucifixion or to glory. In other words, Jesusis telling Nicodemus, and us, that the only way all the good thingsof which he speaks may come about - love, life, light - is throughhis sacrifice and death.

To Ponder

  • Today is Mothering Sunday when many people will record withgratitude all that mothers do in our world. Who has made sacrificesin your life, in order that you might become the person you aretoday?
  • John 3:16 is such a familiar verse that we may read it withouttaking in the magnitude of what it says about God and Jesus. How dowe prevent such key Bible passages losing their impact?
  • How can we reach out to people who love "darkness rather thanlight" (v. 19)?
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