Daily Devotion – June 10, 2021 – Pastor Erick Thompson
3 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “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.
17 “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.
John 3:16 is one of the most popular bible verses. I would bet that many of us can recite it from memory. Yet, there is a reason why it is so popular: it puts us in charge of what’s going on. Everything in verse 16 depends upon whether or not we believe. When we read the entire passage, we see that Jesus and Nicodemus are having an important conversation about belief and understanding, and John 3:16 is just one part of that dialogue.
Nicodemus is being told that we must be born from above to understand or believe in God. He doesn’t understand this, nor does he really understand how he is to be born of water and the spirit. So, When Jesus gives this wonderful promise in John 3:16, he’s telling Nicodemus that one doesn’t just choose eternal life. Instead, Jesus is actually poking a little fun at him: God gives out eternal life… but only to those who believe, and I’m pretty sure Nicodemus is having a hard time believing. Bottom line, humans can’t understand what’s really going on with God, and must instead rely on God to save them.
The real gospel in here is in verse 17, “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.” There is no call for belief here, so there is nothing that is contingent on human ability or action. It is purely God’s work. As humans, we’re usually not too comfortable with not having any input or any control. But, that’s the whole point. The next time you hear or see John 3:16, I hope you remember John 3:17. I hope you can hear the wonderful promise from this story: we don’t have to have it all figured out, and we don’t have to be in control. Instead, we can rest assured that the Spirit of God will bring us to belief and faith through God’s grace alone.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us reliquinish our need for control and understanding, and instead give us the peace passes all our understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.