Jesus said, “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. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
Perhaps no other verse of Scripture is as widely known, both among those who practice the Christian faith and those who do not, as John 3:16. It was one of the first verses I was instructed to memorize as a child, and at this stage I know the words so well that they fall off my tongue without much effort. The challenge for us is to not allow their familiarity to hide their extraordinary quality.
These words of Jesus are imbedded in the nocturnal encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, a great teacher of Israel who, in this instance, comes not to teach but to be taught. The exchange between the two reaches its peak with Jesus’ declaration, ‘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.’ This verse reveals to us the deep truth that God’s desire for us is life, abundant life Jesus tells us later in John’s gospel, and God’s way of being is love, a love that is costly and willing to give lavishly of itself.
These are the sort of fundamentals of our faith that we must always keep before us, for the reality of our daily lived experience often seeks to tell us otherwise. Earlier this week our country marked the tragic milestone of 500,000 lives lost to COVID‐19. Such breathtaking loss stops us in our tracks. As Christians we acknowledge and mourn the incalculable loss of this time in which we are living, but we also hold fast in hope to the truth that amid our grief and confusion God is working in love to bring forth life.
Bless us, O God, in this holy season, in which our hearts seek your help and healing; and so purify us by your discipline that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006, p. 34)