Imagine a situation where you were told that you had a disease that leaves you paralyzed and unable to feel things. This disease doesn’t just leave you just paralyzed and unfeeling, but eventually leads to a painful death. How would you feel? What would you do? What if you were told that there was a cure and that the cure was physically painless, but required you to go through a potentially painful emotionally experience? Let’s say that the remedy would not only cure you, but leave you in a better place than before? Would you do it? Would you fight to live?
In today’s passage, the Apostle John tells his readers about Jesus’ mission. John 3:16 is perhaps one of the most well-known verses. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in the Son would not perish but have eternal life.”
Here’s a couple of things we need to figure out in order to understand what the passage is saying. We’re told here about God’s action. God sent His Son to save the world. We’re also told about God’s motivation- love. Out of love for the world, God sent Jesus to save the world. What is Jesus saving us from? Jesus is saving us from the condemnation of our sin. Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it. The condemnation is the result of our sin. Because God is good, God rightly judges us and justly condemns our sin. Jesus’ mission was to come to take the punishment for our sin upon himself.
But the passage tells us something strange. The condition for our salvation is simply to believe. We are called to trust in the message and trust Christ and his work of salvation. This leaves us with two choices. We can bear the punishment for our sins ourselves, or trust God. Those who do not believe are condemned, not because Christ condemns them, but because they are condemned already and would not allow their condemnation to fall on Christ.
Why wouldn’t they? John points two reasons. First, in admitting our sin, we expose ourselves and need to reveal the darkness that resides within us. “The light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” In other words, the problem that keeps us from the cure for sin involves coming into the light and acknowledging that we have done wrong and admitting the evil that resides within us.
But there’s another problem. Verse 21 says, “whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” This means that we do not receive any credit for saving ourselves. What we contribute to our salvation is our sin. But it is God alone who does the work. That means he alone receives glory and not ourselves. We cannot boast in our ability to obey or our skill to implement a technique to make us more holy.
In the medical world, sometimes the cure for sicknesses can feel worse than the sickness itself. There is a spiritual analogy as well. Spiritually, the cure for our sin requires us to come to the light. This means that we need to recognize that we are sinners, which is an uncomfortable experience. It also requires us to humble ourselves and recognize that God alone can save us. This requires a conversion of our thinking and our understanding of ourselves and God.
But Scripture does not leave us in a state of despair. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts to recognize our weaknesses. The Spirit also helps us to understand God’s love and the goodness of Jesus. When the darkness is exposed, it is exposed by the God who loves you and cares for you. Your wound is being cared for by the Great Physician, Jesus. And the hope after such a conversion experience is eternal life not only after we die, but in this life now as well.
Questions for Meditation:
- What is a sin that you would find difficult for others to know? Why would it be difficult to reveal?
- Has there ever been a time when you found it difficult to admit need or your own inability? Why?
- How does it comfort you to know that you are loved and that Christ came to save you?
- What does eternal life mean to you? How is it Good News?