Text: John 3:1-36, Ezekiel 36:25-27, 1 Timothy 2:5-6
John 3:16 wins the prize for the most well-worn verse in the Bible. Scribbled on bathroom stalls, held high on signs at basketball games, or added to the gear of NFL quarterbacks, John 3:16 is seemingly everywhere. When things become familiar, they sometimes lose their ability to “wow” us. But we still need John 3:16.
In John 3, we find Jesus in a clandestine conversation with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and influential Jew (v. 1). Nicodemus was trying to wrap his well-educated, powerful brain around the fact that the Savior of His people didn’t look like, act like, or teach like Nicodemus thought he should. What Nicodemus was really wrestling with was the gospel.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Nicodemus, probably because I’ve stepped into the ring and gone a few rounds with the gospel myself. There is a tiny corner of my mind and heart that gets it: I am a sinner, deserving of eternal separation from a holy God. Through His death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for my sin and made a way for me to be reconciled to the Father (Romans 6:23). But I struggle to convince my whole self that the gospel can be this simple.
Surely, I need a lot of good works to save me.
I mess up so often, God must have changed His mind about me.
Maybe if I run myself ragged, involving myself in every possible ministry, I will please God.
These are the things I tell myself nearly as often as John 3:16 shows up on the side of a semi-truck. It’s what we see when we read between the lines when Nicodemus said to Jesus, “But how can anyone be born when he is old?. . . Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” (John 3:4).
A few short verses later, we see Nicodemus finally collide with gospel truth:
“For God so loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
- John 3:16
This is so good! Let’s keep reading:
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
- John 3:17
When I try to create a list of requirements for my salvation, I do so out of fear and forgetfulness—like Nicodemus. I’m fearful of being punished and forgetful of God’s character. But God loves us so much! That’s why He sent Jesus here—not to condemn us but to save us. His perfect plan for salvation is laid out for us in John 3:16-17.
May these words from our Savior never grow stale in hearts and minds, and may we never grow tired of hearing them.
Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.