John 3.16 is one of the landmark texts in the Christian Scriptures. It looms large, like a mountain peak, towering above all other verses in our collective consciousness. With telescopic range, it encapsulates the enormity of the Gospel message in concise fashion. We quote it, we put it on billboards, we write it on placards and hold them up at football games. For many of us, John 3.16 has been a part of our lives since before we can remember.
For me, it was the first passage of Scripture I ever memorized. It reminds me of my mother, who taught it to me in my earliest years. I think of one Sunday evening from my childhood, riding in the car with my grandmother. We were on our way to worship at her small church out in the country and she asked me to quote it. Over and over, with more conviction, she had me recite John 3.16. In our family, as in many others, John 3.16 was a verse you carried in your pocket, a portable reminder of God’s enduring love.
“For God..” — A reminder that our lives are inextricably altered when we encounter the Living God. If not “for God”, where would we be?
“…so loved…” — God’s hallmark quality – steadfast, enduring love – defies our gauging metrics. As Paul would say, there is no height nor depth nor width with which we might contain the totality of God’s love toward us.
“…the world…” — Not some of us. Not most of us. Not the good little boys and girls. All of us. The entire world. Every man, woman, and child. Every image bearer who ever has been and ever will be. Every. Last. One.
“…that He gave…” — From His bountiful plenitude, God gives. His generosity extends to the deepest part of Himself, the self-giving and sacrificial nature He demonstrates through this incredible Gift.
“…his only begotten Son…” — The uniqueness of this gift testifies to the motivating impulse of the Giver. God, in all His splendor, has but one Son to give.
“…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish…” — Just as Moses lifted up the serpent and all who beheld it were delivered (Num. 21), so too is Jesus exalted and to behold Him is to find deliverance and salvation.
“…but have everlasting life.” — Life eternal, life abundant. Life to come and life today. Life in the fullness of the Kingdom someday and life alive to the reality of its expansion in the present. True life. Whole life. Nothing less than this is bequeathed to us through Christ.