John 3: 14-21
In today’s passage, we see one of the best-known and best-loved verses in the Bible, John 3:16. It may be true that everyone knows John 3:16 or at least knows of John 3:16, but I wonder if they know that this is part of a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. In short, he was a member of the majority and powerful group who persecuted and nailed Jesus on the cross, but he came to Jesus secretly at night.
In Jesus’s context, all religious leaders such as Pharisees, Priests, or Scribes routinely invoked the language of good versus evil, truth versus falsehood, and light versus darkness.
That was a crucial reason they took the lead in putting Jesus on the cross, a guy who kept crossing and messing up their lines by challenging their own convictions and illusion of what the messiah could be—calling typical fishermen or tax collectors as the disciples, sitting with sinners, and blessing and healing the Gentiles who were considered unclean and evil at Jesus’s context.
When Jesus said John 3:16 to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world,” this message shook his understanding of God. Because Nicodemus thought of Jews, “we” were only good and true dwellers in the presence of God, while “they” are evil and deceitful dwellers in the darkness. Therefore, Nicodemus could not have understood and believed in God who so loved the Gentile.
This is what divine love is. This love is what Jesus had lived out. This love is wider, deeper, and higher than we could imagine. This love is stronger than well-deserved judgement.
If we see Judas as the bad guy, why? Whatever Judas’s degree of guilt and whatever his motive, it is most important to notice that Jesus still sat with and identified his betrayer by feeding him.
Not by turning over the table and not by casting him out. Not by tying him to his chair so he cannot carry out his plan, but by feeding him. Jesus still washed his feet and fed him, which means that Judas was never excluded from the circle of friends.
This is what it means to live out divine love in which we are called to consider who we are and what we are going to do with this limitless love. This is really what John 3:16 means, “For God so loved the world.”
Let’s keep imagining what God’s limitless love may look like. Let’s keep practicing what limitless love should look like as believers and faith community. And let’s keep remembering we are being lifted up in the midst of hard and challenging times as the sure and confident sign of the very best we know—God so loves the world.