“God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16
We continue, today, to read from the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus, the Pharisee who ultimately converted and is venerated as one of the early saints of the Church. Recall that Jesus challenged Nicodemus as a way of helping him to make the difficult decision to reject the malice of the other Pharisees and to become His follower. This passage quoted above comes from Nicodemus’ first conversation with Jesus and is often quoted by our evangelical brothers and sisters as a summary of the whole Gospel. And indeed it is.
Throughout Chapter 3 of John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches about light and darkness, being born from above, wickedness, sin, condemnation, the Spirit and much more. But in many ways, all that Jesus taught in this chapter and throughout His public ministry can be summed up in this short and to-the-point statement: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This short teaching could be broken down into five essential truths.
First, the Father’s love for humanity, and specifically, for you, is a love so deep that there is no way we will ever fully understand the depths of His love.
Second, the love the Father has for us compelled Him to give us the greatest gift we could ever receive and the greatest gift the Father could give: His own divine Son. This gift must be prayerfully pondered if we are to come to a deepening understanding of the infinite generosity of the Father.
Third, as we prayerfully enter deeper and deeper into our understanding of this incredible gift of the Son, our only appropriate response is faith. We must “believe in Him.” And our belief must deepen just as our understanding deepens.
Fourth, we must realize that eternal death is always possible. It is possible that we eternally “perish.” That realization will give even greater insight into the gift of the Son in that we will realize that the first duty of the Son is to save us from eternal separation from the Father.
Lastly, the gift of the Son from the Father is not only to save us but also to draw us to the heights of Heaven. That is, we are given “eternal life.” This gift of eternity is of infinite capacity, value, glory and fulfillment.
Reflect, today, upon this summary of the whole Gospel: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Take it line by line, prayerfully seeking to understand the beautiful and transforming truths revealed to us by our Lord in this holy conversation with Nicodemus. Try to see yourself as Nicodemus, a good person who is trying to understand Jesus and His teachings more clearly. If you can listen to these words with Nicodemus and accept them deeply in faith, then you, too, will share in the eternal glory these words promise.
My glorious Lord, You came to us as the greatest Gift ever imagined. You are the gift of the Father in Heaven. You were sent out of love for the purpose of saving us and drawing us into the glory of eternity. Help me to understand and believe all that You are and to receive You as the saving Gift for Eternity. Jesus, I trust in You.