Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The mystery of the John 3:16 placard

I was first introduced to WWF in my pre-teen years by my cousin Mark.  He also introduced me to Michael Jackson’s Bad album so it must be noted that he’s a decent bloke.  I had heard the boys at school discussing WWF at length but had largely ignored their fanboy fervour as I believed myself to be far superior to such nonsense.  Well, thanks to me Cuz I now had a secret love.  Was it the spandex outfits?  The outrageous makeup?  The mania of the stadium?  The over the top spectacle?  The fact that my book-loving cultured parents would not approve? Answer = D: all of the above.

As my teenage years went on I lost interest in the wrestling world and all its glory.  For instance I never understood the significance of the Stone Cold Steve Austin fanboys holding up “Austin 3:16” signs (until I read the Wikipedia article on it just now) and hadn’t thought about it in decades until I was listening to our Pastor teach on Hermenuetics [the art and science of reading the Bible].  He mentioned John 3:16 and it transported me back to those heady days of lycra and spray tan and then got me thinking some deeper thoughts (thank goodness!).

So Pastor Travis was trying to get the group to think about the context of verses and how that helps us to understand what they mean.  There is debate in the Church about the meaning of some of the words in the verse and who they apply to.  Just google any Arminian vs Calvinism debate on this verse and you will be drawn into an epic smack-down of Friday night proportions.  But I REALLY don’t want to go there today because I think knowing who the speaker of the verse was originally talking to can teach us so much more than a heated debate.  But if that’s your bag baby, then go right ahead…

So who is speaking in John 3:16?  Why it’s Jesus!  And who is he talking to?  He’s talking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee.  Now the Pharisees were the spiritual leaders in Israel.  They taught the ordinary plebs all about God and now Jesus is teaching him.  Nicodemus wants to know if Jesus is truly from God and if he is how he can enter God’s kingdom too.  And Jesus tells Nicodemus that if he puts his trust in him then he will be part of God’s kingdom.  And not only that but whoever believes in Jesus will be part of God’s kingdom.  By saying that God loves the world Jesus is stating that Gentiles and sinners are also included in God’s kingdom.  For an Israelite at that time this was such a radical statement that it got some other Pharisees so angry they had Jesus put to death.

For us this verse should be one of great comfort.  Most of us are Gentiles and we can rejoice that God wishes us to be part of His eternal Kingdom.  We can be thankful that it was always Jesus’ intention to include all people. Oh Yeah!

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