John 3 = For God So Loved the World!
Bible Background: This most favorite Bible verse comes after a conversation Jesus has with a good Jewish leader named Nicodemus. They talk about being “born again or anew”. It all sounds a little mysterious! Then Jesus keeps speaking and Nicodemus disappears from the conversation. We’ll meet him again in John!
Digging Deeper: 1. The reference “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” refers to the odd story of the Israelites complaints and God’s punishment in Numbers 21. The point being: When the people repented and trusted in this (odd) instrument of healing, God saved them! Now, John says, when people look to Jesus on the cross, they’ll see God’s saving acts too.
2. “Believe” is a key concept in John’s gospel. It’s a verb! (John never uses “repent” or “faith” or “belief”.) For John, believing that God sent Jesus; and that Jesus is all the things he claims to be, is the key to having life in his name! What’s involved in “believing” in Jesus? How much is up to us and how much is up to the Holy Spirit? In the Small Catechism Luther writes: “I believe that I cannot, by my own understanding, believe in Jesus Christ or come to him. But, the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel…” How do we nurture faith in us? Others?
3. Another key concept for John is “eternal life”. When you read John’s Gospel, it’s clear he is pointing to a quality of life that is available and begins now, and not just the idea of everlasting life, with Christ, in heaven. What does it mean to you to have life in his (Jesus’) name?
4. A third key concept in John is “light” vs. “darkness”. Those who come to the light are able to see and trust themselves to Jesus. Those who reject him, are still in the darkness. Remember Jesus’ claim “I am the light of the world!” (8:12 and 9:5) “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life!” What do you hear Jesus saying with these words?
5. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” is such a familiar verse! Keep it paired with John 3:17 which is not quoted as often, but is just as important: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Pray for the whole world-those parts and people we’d like to condemn, and those parts and people we are just fine with!