The Gospel According to Jesus
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Text: John 3:1-36
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.”
– John 3:36a, ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son…”
If there is one verse nearly every Sunday School-going child has been taught, it is this one—and what a sweet verse it is. Today, we read John 3:16 nestled into its broader context. The verse that sums up so much of our faith is just one small part of a larger conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews.
The Pharisees were devoted to seeing that the Law was kept to the letter, and they were more concerned with outward appearances than the heart. In fact, the heart of the matter for the Pharisees was the Law. Nicodemus is here seeking Jesus—interestingly enough in the cover of night (v.2)—because he is convinced that Jesus is from God. Even so, you can see in the exchange that he is unsure of the unconventional ways of this man from Nazareth. Nicodemus is so literal and logical in his line of questioning, and Jesus just keeps answering him, “Truly, truly I say to you…”
I wonder how often I do this. I am unsure about the way of Jesus, wondering whether it’s good and right or, sometimes, if it’s even possible. I can be just like Nicodemus. Yet, Jesus tells me, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” His rebuke is gentle yet firm, just as it is with Nicodemus.
Believing Jesus is the first step to understanding, not the other way around.
It is clear from these first 15 verses that Jesus and Nicodemus are not on the same page. We can almost read frustration into Jesus’ words. Nicodemus wants facts and proof; he wants Jesus to impart knowledge to him so that he might understand exactly how the Gospel works. But Jesus is telling him, in so many words, that he just won’t get it unless he believes.
Later in the chapter, however, we see John the Baptist take a very different approach to the person of Christ. John understands the way of Jesus on a level Nicodemus does not—and he submits himself unequivocally to Jesus’ divine authority. When others come to John questioning Jesus’ authority to baptize, John makes it clear that Jesus is the only one with the true authority. Not only that, John says he rejoices at merely hearing the sound of Jesus’ voice (v. 29)! John the Baptist sums up his feelings for the Messiah in one simple, profound statement of belief: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (v. 30).
Nicodemus and John the Baptist both recognized Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.
Even still, they each had to decide, Do I believe?
Let’s read the Gospel invitation again as spoken by Jesus Himself:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 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.
Are we women who believe? Do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God who has come to give us eternal life and make every single thing new?
Let’s not get caught up in what seems impossible or tripped up on our own understanding, but let’s know that all things are possible with God. May we be women who rejoice at the sound of our Savior’s voice! May we seek to become less so that He may become more.