This post is part of a weekly share of gleanings from the book of John. Click here for more information, and read to the bottom to join the conversation!
Several years ago I worked in a food bank, always asking friends and church members to donate non-perishables. Why? Because the lifespan of perishables was already diminishing. Before long those items would be moldy, rotten, and tossed…
It should, because that’s me and you! Perishable from birth… And that’s the nature of our existence that this third chapter of John addresses.
I have known John 3:16 my whole life. And I bet you have too. Is there a more “famous” Bible verse??
And I think I have misunderstood it’s message my whole life too. That’s unfortunate because, y’all… this is the Gospel! The Good news of Jesus!
Perhaps my misunderstanding was due to lack of investigation. Did I ever read it within it’s context, or consider to whom Jesus spoke these words? Did I ever compare the words in the 16th verse to the story in the two previous verses? Or look into Jesus’ God-given mission in the following verse? So let’s back up and jump forward a bit, and look at verses 14-17.
14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:14-17)
Numbers 21:4-9 tells the story mentioned in 14&15. Click on the link and read through it briefly… it’s an important part of the investigation, because it reminds us that looking upon the serpent did not save those who were well, but those who were already bitten, already perishing… and gave them life.
Perfect segway to Jesus’ presentation of His own Gospel, which He shared with a Pharisee, somebody who believed he was well because of his many “righteous” works.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Should. Not. Perish… but have eternal life! Eternally non-perishable! Saved from decay, mold, and the being tossed!
And remember the nature of perishables? Already diminishing! That’s where the next verse comes in… and that’s where my years of misunderstanding came in as well.
I always read these verses in regards to two separate groups of people: the condemned and the not-condemned, the lost and the saved. Not only is that thinking deeply flawed, but it is a BIG disservice to the awe and gravity of what Jesus came to do!
The beauty and great impact of these passages comes when we realize and accept that Jesus is speaking to ONE group: the condemned. I am in that group and so are you… and so is every human who has ever existed… including our precious little ones. Already condemned. Diminishing, perishing from the moment of our birth. Enemies, completely unworthy of His great grace that brings salvation to those who would never turn to Him if not drawn by Him.
Jesus did not come to this world in judgement or in order to condemn a world which was already condemned in it’s entirety. Jesus came into the world in grace, in order to rescue us, His enemies, and willingly receive the punishment we all deserve. Jesus came into the world as a substitute for our condemnation. Jesus came into the world so that when His Father looks upon His children, He won’t see you and me in our filthy, rotten, perishing condemnation. Instead, He will see the righteousness of Jesus covering each of us whose hearts He has given the gift of belief!
And what a gift it is to share this grace with our children when we encounter various sins in our families. What a privilege and responsibility to model unconditional love and forgiveness despite the behaviors we see in these little ones, and the behaviors they see in us. What a challenge to live and love the way Jesus did, patiently dealing with Nicodemus and the Pharisees in their endless questions, doubts and traps… and what a celebration to see them turn to Him as He calls them forth!
I hope you are reading these scriptures with your little ones, they are immeasurably valuable and eternally fruitful!
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