16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him
In the midst of his conversation with Jesus, Nicodemus is the recipient of the most famous quote of the entire Bible. He had set up a meeting with Jesus to investigate for himself exactly what Jesus was teaching, to hear it and test it for himself. Jesus had just finished telling Nicodemus about a spiritual rebirth that we must undergo, and now Jesus really lays it all out in John 3:16.
I am by no means a Bible scholar, and I cannot even begin to attempt unpacking the deep theology of John 3:16. But what did Jesus' words mean to Nicodemus in the moment when the famous phrase was uttered? What would it have meant for Jesus to say this directly to us?
Maybe it simply means we are chosen. God had a plan for how he was going to redeem his people from the very beginning. Jesus didn't have to be sacrificed, he did it out of love. He chose to follow God’s will and in doing so, he redeemed his chosen people. He redeemed Jew and Gentile alike.
Do you think Nicodemus had an “aha” moment? Do you think he got it right there on the spot? He had spent years studying the scriptures, enforcing God’s written law, and living a comfortable life as a Pharisee. After all the legalism, can it really boil to one simple word? Can it all be united by love?
John doesn’t tell us how Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus ends, but I’m sure Nicodemus left exhilarated, if not a little confused. The life he had spent years chasing was all about to be made meaningless by the love of Jesus. There are historical accounts indicating that Nicodemus was baptized, so we know that he eventually “got it.” Once he had some time to digest what Jesus was saying, Nicodemus knew it was the truth.
All of us who follow Christ can remember our own “aha” moment – that single instance where we finally realized our desperate need for Jesus. The body of Christ is made up of people of with different clothing styles, different bank accounts, and positions on the social ladder. But we are all united by the love of Christ and a desire to know him more deeply.
- Take some time to think about your own “aha” moment. There is value in reliving that moment and thanking God for choosing you.
- What does John 3:16 mean to you personally? How does its meaning impact your life?