I grew up in an era when every baseball game had a guy holding a “John 3:16” sign in the crowd. Presumably, a devout Christian had crafted that sign in hopes of getting on the Jumbotron or put on TV. Over time, the “3:16” moniker was adopted by other sign holders – like at professional wrestling events – to show their allegiance to their heroes (“____ 3:16”). “3:16” indicated a kind of credo. If something or someone could be boiled down to a simple idea it would be their “3:16.” I suspect that “Dean 3:16” would be something about my faith, my family, and maybe something about donuts or sneakers.
Well, John 3:16 has served faithfully as the go-to summary of the Good News in our culture for the last several decades. Why? Because it says so much in so few words. It really is a great synthesis of the Good News, but the text has become almost like “white-noise” to people who have heard it countless times in their lives. So let’s have a look at it’s elements:
“For God so loved the world…”
God’s Love – The verse starts with a statement about God’s love. It doesn’t only highlight God’s love for “his people” (the Jews); it tells about God’s love for the world! All of his people in every time and place, of every race and color, devout or alienated are loved by God.
“…that he gave his one and only Son…”
God’s Gift – God’s love isn’t abstract or theoretical. Much like our love, if it is void of action, then we must question its authenticity. God’s love prompted him to give away the most valuable thing that he had, the life of his Son, Jesus Christ. This further accentuates the depth of his love. Such a costly gift indicates how much he treasures us.
“…that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
God’s Promise – The gift of the Son wasn’t only an extravagant one, it was a necessary one. Without that gift we are lost and sure to perish. All that is asked of us is that we receive the gift in faith, that we believe in the Son. When we do so, we are given life. It was understood that what John meant was not only life after death. The life that Jesus promised was life that begins now, the fullness of life that we experience in Jesus Christ.
John 3:16 really is a beautiful encapsulation of the Good News. I’m grateful for its popularity. This morning I’m praying that we receive its message of God’s love more deeply and that more come to know it’s promise.