For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
The first time I memorized those words I was the lead in my church’s Christmas play, and I was just a little kid. It was a fun play. I was really young, but I enjoyed my role. I never forgot those words, but it was only during my teenage years (when the infamous wrestler Steve Austin coined his trademark Austin 3:16) that I realized how well known this verse was. And then a couple of years ago Tim Tebow put the reference in his face paint during the NCAA National Football Championship game. Google reported 92 million searches for John 3:16 during and immeditely following the game.
My point is that this is an incredibly familiar passage. One that has made its way into our culture in a variety of ways over the years. For me, it’s a verse that I have read, quoted, written, and heard probably thousands of time in my thirty-plus years, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually understood it at all. I mean, people have been telling me for years what it is supposed to mean. I have even told others what it is supposed to mean. I’ve blogged about it, preached about it, designed t-shirts utilizing it, and broadcast it–but; even though I’ve been a Christian for over half of my life, it’s never really been much more than some evangelical mantra we like to bandy about as we proselytize those around us. It is so much more than that.
I had a good family life growing up, and consider that actuality an incredible blessing knowing that to be more the exception than the rule these days. Because of my home life, grasping the notion of being a son of God, like the Bible teaches, was never much of a stretch for me. It was an easy part of the faith for me to comprehend, believe, and communicate. It’s only within the last month, and to a lesser extent the previous nine, that I began to be able understand the Gospel from a Father’s perspective.
And that brings me back to John 3:16. This verse we’ve probably all heard so much. As familiar as it is, it is incredibly challenging, confusing, and wonderful. God loved you and I so much that He gave away His only son. I can tell you right now, I could never do that. It doesn’t matter who we are talking about: my best friend, my wife, my mom, brother, students, anyone…everyone. If given a choice to save them and yet condemn my child there is no real choice. My child gets first priority every time.
But God, being infinitely sovereign and immeasurably wise, contrived a means by which He could give up His own son to excruciating torture, so that He might open the way to redemption and restoration for all of His sons…and not only did the one die to save the rest, but the firstborn of all creation rose again through the power of the Father.
I’m going to do the best I can in this life to be the best father that I can be, but only God the Father can give and save at the same time. Incredible.