Jn 3: 16 – 18
The gospel of today is made up of only three verses, but if they are well understood, they may help us revise the ideas we have about God. Many Christians still link God with fear: he is the one that knows all, sees all, spies on us to discover our wrong doings and waits for us at the end to punish us (if he does not start punishing us even in this world!). Could anyone one love such a God?
Today’s teaching shows us the true God, the truths that Jesus has revealed to us. In these three verses we will discover the true face of God.
By going to the fist reading Ex 34: 6, 7a, we get an insight into the nature of God.
Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, “The Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin; ..”
It is important to note that the words “merciful and gracious” in the original Hebrew are linked with the qualities of a mother’s womb.
In the light of this profound revelation about the nature of our God read today’s gospel text twice.
“God so loved the world”
The world for John is the symbol of total evil. It is with this total evil that God wants to compete. Do you imagine he can be the loser in this competition?
Divide the text and give a title to each part and a title for the text as a whole.
Here are my ideas.
The God of Jesus
God loves so much
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
God, giver of eternal life
17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
18Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
God loves so much
We are confronted with “so” in “God so loved”. We become aware of the infinite capacity of God for loving us, his creation. It is the whole world, without exception, that he loves. In order to strengthen and ensure that that we understand this, Jesus adds “ .. he gave his only Son..” Nothing is too much for our God to do for us. The use of “only” conjures up the image of an only child and the love parents have for this only child. Our God loves us totally – no conditions set.
Recall to mind the love of a son or daughter tending the death of a beloved parent. They can only wish their loved one all peace, joy and happiness as they enter into eternity. Our God’s love infinitely surpasses this love.
God, giver of eternal life
Jesus came that all would enjoy eternal life, life to the full. We are offered the chance to live out our lives achieving our maximum potential. As we enter into an ever deepening relationship with the Lord so our capacity to experience the fullness of life increases. Our God wants us to be the very best we can. The passage is emphatic in stating that neither the Father nor Jesus condemn – Jesus came “that the world might be saved”. Again, no exceptions are suggested.
God is not blind to our tendency to sin. He, however, leaves us free to choose. When sin enters our lives it is we who condemn ourselves to a life of sadness, pain, absence of true love and fulfilment in service of others. We choose not to enter into the fullness of life. This however does not change God’s attitude to us. God never gives up when confronted by the sin of people. He hates sin because it destroys the lives of his children. What he wants is that they stop sinning so that they can enjoy true happiness.
Goodness, God, will triumph
Do you really think that evil is more powerful than his love? Has not his Son come to “save the world”? And isn’t “the world”, for John, the symbol of total evil? It is with this evil that God competes (.. and not just with minor sins). Do you imagine he can be the loser in this competition? NEVER!
As one reads this text one becomes conscious that this is a positive teaching. To bring this out I have replaced the many double negatives, where they occur, with a positive.
A positive teaching
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might be saved but might have eternal life.
17For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
18Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
His only Son- Every person is an only son / daughter of God
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.