John 3:16 was the first Bible verse that I ever memorized. I remember as a child in Sunday school reciting those words over and over, “For God so loved the world . . . ” I don’t know if it was through the power of repetition or not, but I am certain that one of the first things that I ever really knew about God was that God loved the world.
There’s more to this passage in John’s Gospel than verse 16. John begins by taking us back to the book of Numbers where Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness, which was a symbol of God’s saving action. By recalling this story, John reiterates for his readers something we already know to be true—God loves the world, has loved the world, and continues to love the world.
God loves the world. How much?
John doesn’t pause long enough for us to even ask that question. God loves the world so much that God sent Jesus, in flesh and blood, to be in the world with us—not to condemn the world but to save it.
The world is messy, broken, and overwhelming. I often wonder why God doesn’t condemn us for the disconnection our actions create. Then I remember this truth: God loves this world.And instead of giving up on us, God chooses to be in solidarity with us.
Jesus comes into the world, in all of its messiness, and meets us right smack in the middle of the wilderness. As we close out another week of Lent, we step farther into the wilderness and closer to the Cross. What a gift to remember that God loves you, me, us, the world so much that God sent Jesus to be in the world so that God could be in even closer communion with us!
God, help us to remember that we are loved so much that you meet us right where we are in our wilderness. Amen.
Sometimes we get ourselves into trouble by our words and actions. It’s okay to admit it. It happens to all of us. The Israelites experienced this when their constant grumbling provoked God’s wrath in Numbers 21. Yet even in this story, God provides the means of salvation. The psalmist echoes the refrain that when we put ourselves in bad positions, we may cry out to the Lord for deliverance. We read in Ephesians that all of us were living in disobedience to God, but God has done all the work of reconciliation by grace given through Christ Jesus. John ties all this together, gesturing to the story in Numbers 21 to teach us that Christ is the means of restoration and salvation for all who believe in him.
Read Numbers 21:4-9. When do you complain to God? Does your complaining ever interfere with your sense of God’s presence with you?
Read Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22. What practice helps you to thank God each day for God’s steadfast love?
Read Ephesians 2:1-10. How does your sense of God’s salvation and grace move you to do good works?
Read John 3:14-21. How do you act as a creature of light in the world? What are your “deeds that have been done in God”?
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