Why Does This Remind Us of Football?
The text this week is John 3: 1-17. This for me always reminds me of the crazy looking guy at football games. You know the one, the dude with the multi-colored hair, who is always holding up a sign that says John 3:16. The text is about a lot more than that simple statement but that is what most people, certainly me, focus on most. While I am tempted to focus on other aspects of this, but I will instead do what most do and drill down on the 16th. verse.
This 16th verse is arguably the most famous verse in the whole of Scripture, “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.”. The staggering implications of this are too often lost upon us in our present age. God is not offering His salvation to just a particular narrow tribe or group of people who use some code or password to get in. He is offering this gift to everyone, everywhere. We cannot and dare not claim God for our own, He is for the whole world; He said so Himself. How can we claim to believe in Scripture as the revealed truth of God and ignore this passage and all it implies?
God does not just love Americans, although He surely does, He loves the whole world. God does not just love the wealthy, although He surely does, He loves the whole world. God does not just love white people, although He surely does, He loves the whole world. This is a radical, unheard-of stance, not repeated by any of the other cults or religions before and precious few since. God is calling everyone to Himself through Christ, no password needed. This is a stance of radical love and inclusion that is truly miraculous. This is the mark of a truly great faith; it is an affair of the soul with God, not with itself. This is the nature and implication of a redeemer that came for everyone, not a select few.
A Comparative Stroll
To see just how staggering this radical inclusion is let us take a brief stroll through some belief systems extant before and during the dawn of the Christian era.
Let us take the core belief of our faith in the Redeemer or Savior. This notion is not unique to Christianity. The Near East produced many such variations on this theme: in Asia Minor the cult of Attis; or the cult of Osiris in Egypt who would be the judge of the dead; Dionysus in Greece as well as the Hebrew notion of the Messiah. This figure was often referred to as Christos, which means anointed one. This figure is profoundly a man but also a god. It is from this that the notion of the Son of Man comes from, which Jesus often used to refer to Himself in Scripture.
The logic of this goes as follows. The unseen god or spirit made man in his image. It follows that god is himself man. He is the real, ultimate, perfect, eternal man of whom we are just feeble copies. God or the ideal and first man is the father. The redeemer is his son, the image of the father or the son of man.
Usually this savior comes down from heaven to save mankind. When his work is done, he goes back up to heaven to sit by the side of the father in glory. Thereafter the chosen people whom he has saved will be able to join him. As I said, this may make us uncomfortable, in that it seems to reduce our doctrine to just an imitation of many other cults in this area at this time. It should not worry us in any way. First, we believe in one Jesus of Nazareth as the Savior. Our hearts are filled with this belief and the joy that God gives us thorough this belief. Second, while our belief in the saving work of Jesus is like these early mystery cults, it differs in one key idea. These cults were exclusive. Even the Hebrew belief in the savior was exclusive (I would argue this was a perversion of what the Jewish people were chosen to do; proclaim God’s grace to all the nations). Every one of these cults had a particular contract and set of passwords that granted one salvation. Christianity, by contrast, embraced a universal application of God’s and His Son’s redeeming work. This gift was open to everyone.
Therefore this passage explains Jesus as such a unique savior and goes far to explain His appeal. Ours is a God that loves without measure or condition-the whole world. Our role is to simply hear God’s good and gracious word and believe. Then go out and obey, even if that means looking crazy at a football game.
Praise Be to God