Jesus came to save the world. But not everyone wants saving.
Most Christians have heard John 3 all our lives. (Particularly verse 16.) It’s an old lesson. It’s not a hard one to grasp, either: Gotta be born again; the Father sent the Son into the world to save it; those who love the dark won’t love the light. Plus that bit about John the baptist being totally in favor of the growth of Jesus’s ministry.
So we sometimes forget: To Nicodemus this was all new. Unless the Holy Spirit had been slipping him some information in advance—so that Jesus could confirm it, and Nicodemus could believe—this is the first time he’d heard any such thing. Again, it’s not a hard lesson to grasp. But Nicodemus recognized Jesus was telling him he had to put his faith in the Son of Man to have life in the age to come. And this was a new idea. Put your faith in the prophet sitting across from you? The guy with the rustic accent, a rabbi followed by a bunch of kids, a former laborer who’d never studied in the Jerusalem schools—who could do miracles, sure, but still—this guy? This guy’s the king of Israel?
We Christians respond, “Well duh.” But that’s because we know him. Nicodemus didn’t know him yet. And any pagan presented with Jesus, who seriously consider him for the first time, are likewise gonna struggle with the idea. ’Cause they always assumed he was dead—and we’re telling them he’s alive, and all his teachings are still valid.
Easy for followers, but non-followers still have that big leap of faith to take. Not easy, ’cause they still have some stuff they’re clinging to.
John 3.12-18 KWL
- 12 “If people won’t believe it when I tell you of earthly things,
- how will you believe it when I tell people of heavenly things?
- 13 Nobody’s gone up to heaven but the one who came down from heaven:
- The Son of Man.” [Who’s in heaven.]
- 14 “The Son of Man has to be lifted up, just like Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,
- 15 so all who trust in him might have life—
- in the age to come, 16 for God likewise loves the world.
- Therefore he gave his only-begotten Son, so all who trust him might not be destroyed.
- Instead they might have life in the age to come.
- 17 God didn’t send the Son into the world so he could judge the world,
- but so, through the Son, he’d save the world.
- 18 Those who trust the Son aren’t judged.
- Non-believers are judged already: They don’t trust the only-begotten Son of God’s name.”
We gotta put our trust in him. Not our theology; there are loads of Christians who assume we have to get all our doctrines right, and if any of ’em are out of place, we’re heretics, bound for hell. Not our religion; there are likewise loads of Christians who figure if we haven’t been baptized, if we don’t take regular holy communion, if we don’t repent and confess sins on a consistent basis, God’ll turn off his grace like a faucet. Not our knowledge, not our dedication, not ourselves. Him. Only him.
Hard to do when, thus far, you’ve only trusted yourself.