Why John 3:16 changes everything
John 3:16 is big. It is not light and fluffy, it is significant and weighty. It tells us the basis of the cross. It tells us why Jesus died in our place. It tells us why his precious blood was shed. And it gives us the answer for why we can have any hope of being saved.
Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, because he was afraid of his fellow countrymen who hated Jesus. It is significant that he sought Jesus out and it is significant how Jesus responded. This was not an easy comfy meeting between long-time friends. Jesus pretty much smacked him down. Are you the teacher of Israel and you do not understand these things? How's that for a gentle lead-in? Ouch. You don't understand. You don't believe. You are wrong. I've told you of heavenly things, of spiritual things, and you are too tied down to the earthly to get it. You are too weighed down with fear of man and self-righteousness to understand. Jesus goes for the jugular. It's because of his great love with which he loves us. It's not that he's angry, it is that he cares. He cares enough to tell us the truth about ourselves. He cares enough to point us to himself.
Then Jesus uncovers the hidden clue that will unlock the mystery. He mercifully tells Nicodemus about the tie-in between himself and the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness. Looking to the bronze serpent checked the plague of wrath that would kill them. Looking to Jesus would give them the answer to the wrath that was upon them and would come upon them because of their sin. If they were to live they had to trust in the Messiah, the Redeemer, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Look to the bronze serpent and the plague would be checked. Look to the crucified, risen, and soon to be returning Savior and the plague of sin that has harassed your soul will be checked. Freedom in Christ bought with precious blood. Blessed forgiveness, mercy extended, because of God's love.
And then we come to the stadium billboard signage that flashes across the screens of our memory and deeply embeds itself in the deepest longings of our souls. We come to a verse of Scripture that can be rattled off in mere seconds but takes a lifetime to understand. We come to that gem of truth that has so sadly been devalued due to its commonality. It's not just kid stuff, but it's so great for kids. It is for every generation. As Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, it's the promise of the ages for all ages. Adults and children alike need what John 3:16 is selling.
But before we get to that one verse, the singular Truth upon which the multifaceted grace of God hinges, let me tell you what comes after it. Jesus talks condemnation. Jesus doesn't say he will condemn the world because they don't believe, Jesus says the world condemns itself in their unbelief. He talks about the light. He is that light. It isn't just a generic, hazy light. It's second Corinthians chapter 4 light of the knowledge of the glory of God seen in the face of Christ light. It's Jesus himself as the answer to all of mankind's yearnings, wanderings, and conflicts. It's the answer in a sea of confusion. It's what your soul needs and your soul hates and your soul loves and your soul begs for all at the same time.
I don't think a lot of people like the love of God sometimes. God's love is so counter cultural and counterintuitive that it kind of shocks us. It doesn't fit our theology. It's not fair we say, that guilty sinners would go free. We want mercy for ourselves, but justice for our enemies. But we read in scripture that Jesus loves his enemies. We read in scripture that we must love our enemies. First John chapter 4 says that if we say we love God and hate our brother we are liars. If we can't love our brother whom we see, how can we love God whom we do not see? It's our faulty logic that condemns us. And so we need to get to John 3:16.
You and I need John 3:16 like we need air. We need it indelibly etched upon our souls. We need it tattooed upon our consciousness. We need it written on the banner above our doors. We need to stop looking down on the verse so common that unbelievers instinctively know it. We need to embrace the truth of John 3:16 and see what comes before and after it and how that explains the love of God. That love that goes beyond all other loves. That love we find it hard to explain. That love that will not let me go.
For God. This is God's idea. God is the initiator. God is the planner of this plan. God knew what he was doing. God made up the plan and he was going to carry out the plan. Due to nothing good in us, he instituted his plan. His plan of the ages. It was settled before the foundation of the world.
So loved the world. Because he loved his creation. Because he loved those he made. Because he loved every single human being he made. Because his love goes beyond our comprehension. Because his love goes beyond our petty differences. Because his love is the banner over all of us.
That he gave. He didn't charge admission. He covered the entire cost. He gave at great cost. He didn't take. He gave. Not something he didn't want anymore. He gave his most prized and treasured possession. He relinquished what was his before eternity began. He substituted his son. He sacrificed his son.
His only son. Only begotten son. Son of God. Got almighty. God incarnate. 100% God.
That whosoever. That's you and me if we will. That bigger on the street corner. That angry bitter neighbor that you don't like. The smelly man sitting in the gutter. That's the crack addict. That's the meth lab owner. That's the rapist. That's the murderer. That's the child molester. It's the gossip. That's the glutton. It's the most popular person in class. That's the most powerful man in the world. At the CEO. The drunk. That's your gardener. That's your beloved. At your worst enemy. That's those who don't hold your political views. That's the person who cheated you. That's the person who beat you. That's the person that has mistreated you. Whosoever. Without distinction. Without works. Without deserving it.
Would believe in him. There's the only stipulation. It's not something you can manufacture on your own. It's the gift of God. It's supernatural. It's necessary. Faith has its object. The Lord Jesus Christ. Son of God. Endless. Sinless. Savior of all. Believing in him.
Would not perish. The benefit blows your mind. Perishing is not good. Under the wrath of God is not good. Being lost in sin is not good. But God says they will not perish. They will not die for their sin because someone else died for their sin.
But would have eternal life. That's life forever with God. That's what believers get. You didn't deserve it but God gave it because of grace. Mercifully he holds back his wrath against our sin. Graciously he gives us what we don't deserve. Lovingly he applies the precious blood. Kindly he leads us to repentance. Powerfully he saves our souls. Eternally he secures his possession. Righteously he protects his own. Forever we must praise his name. The Lord Jesus Christ. Lover of my soul.
All praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been saved by sovereign grace alone, through the gift of faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, for God's glory alone.
Jesus loves you!