Today’s Gospel: John 3:16-21
We have been working through the opening chapters of John’s majestic Gospel this Lent, wondering some of his essential questions: who is this Jesus, and what does he stand for? Jesus proclaims God’s truth with passion, and he will tell it to anyone, anywhere. Such is the setting for today’s dynamic teaching, which Jesus shares with a religious leader visiting under the cover of darkness.
Nicodemus is a Pharisee, which means he seeks God’s holiness through precise adherence to the law. Earlier in chapter three, Nicodemus greets Jesus by candlelight, saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” In this bold claim, we hear him wondering, “Who are you, and how are you related to God?” What follows is one of the iconic passages in all of Scripture–John 3:16. Understood here as a late night response to a Pharisee, the text emerges as a bold proclamation of Jesus identity, but also as a self-indicting claim in a culture that executes anyone who threatens the unholy alliance of religion, politics and money.
Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John shows Jesus as Way, Truth and Life, and this notion of abundant life anchors his Gospel. Abundant life is justice, compassion and joy; it is the difference between deep satisfaction and cheap thrills.
Abundant life is the good life that we all seek so desperately. It is the power of love over and against the love of power. It is generosity over greed, forgiveness over judgement, courage over expediency, life over death. Abundant life is the reason Jesus wraps his identity in God’s love for the world–the cosmos–the whole structure of being. In John’s school of thought, the phrase “God so loved the world” means that God loves everyone and everything that was, is now and ever shall be.
Truly, the way of Jesus is the way of life, because it is the way of self-emptying love. God so loves the world that God sends Jesus to show us what life can be in its abundance. What do you desperately seek for your life? How can the love of God make your life more abundant? How can you love the world this day?
O God, you manifest in your servants the signs of your presence: Send forth upon us the Spirit of love, that in companionship with one another your abounding grace may increase among us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 125, Prayer for Mission)
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