In America, what is the most quoted verse of the Bible??? Yes, you guessed it, John 3:16.
There we find the gospel, clearly stated:
because of God’s great love,
Jesus came to earth to
lead us into abundant,
everlasting life. Amen!
However, I don't believe that most people have ever considered how this verse fits in context of John 3. Just before this memorable and foundational verse Jesus compares himself to serpents... check it out:
9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."
This is a reference to an interesting story found in Numbers 21 when God sent a swarm of snakes to kill many Israelites because He was sick of their sin...
6 The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.
Nicodemus would have been familiar with this story and would then fear the return of God's wrath unless he repents.
Like the Israelites and Nicodemus, let's run to God, cry out for mercy, repent of our sins, so we too can be spared from the sting of a nasty serpent, and instead experience the sweet salvation of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Father, I know that I have broken your commands. And by doing so I have broken your heart.
My sins have separated me from you.
I am truly sorry.
I know there is no salvation without repentance.
So I commit to turn from sin.
Thank you for your love. And for sending your Son to save me.
Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life.
In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
It seems bizarre that Jesus would bring up this grim object next to such a beautiful proclamation of God’s love. However, the gospel appears in surprising places, showing us a God who transforms punishment and death into forgiveness and life.
15 ...You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;
show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you...
17 Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.