Imagine my surprise at opening my devotion book this morning and finding the featured verse was John 3:16. Okay, you’re probably wondering why that was such a shocker.
It surprised me because that verse is everywhere. It’s on posterboard held up at NFL events. It’s painted on the walls of Sunday school classrooms. It’s hand-stitched on decorative embroidered wall hangings for baby nurseries. It’s even on coffee mugs, billboards, T-shirts, and one unfortunate beer coozie I saw at a barbeque.
It’s losing its impact. Even worse, people see it so often that instead of being a message about how much we’re loved and cherished by a creator, it’s become an instant-sign of your Christianity. You don’t have to live your faith for others to see, you just have to have a Jesus fish car sticker and a John 3:16 license plate on the front.
What really gets me about that verse is that I don’t think the writer of the Gospel got it right. Good thing there are no hordes of soldiers working under the king’s command right now, or I’d be tied to a stake and roasted like a hot dog before I finished typing this.
When you look at that verse in great detail, it’s all about God. How much GOD loved us. How HE sent his son. How HE did this so we can have everlasting life.
That’s not how I read it. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, describes the scene that took place in Heaven when the moment that sparked the verse actually took place. In that scene, God is devastated and heartbroken by man’s disobedience; he’s been trying and trying and giving chance after chance after chance, but man is a jerk who keeps doing whatever he wants to do, instead of obeying the Lord. The angels are actually rending their garments in agony over how utterly sad God is.
Jesus stepped forward. According to Milton, Jesus was the one who said, “Dad, I’ll go. I’ll die as the sacrifice so your people will come back to you. Please don’t be sad anymore.”
That’s a beautiful image of love, one that is far bigger than a sign someone scribbled for the benefit of national television. More importantly, it reverses the willingness in the sacrifice. God may have physically sent Jesus to die for us, but Jesus stepped up first. He had a moment of weakness in the garden where his very human heart cried to be delivered from this, but ultimately said, “I’ll do it if you need me to.”
It’s not important whose idea it was. None of that really matters. What matters is Jesus agreed, and God allowed it. I will tell you that I hadn’t even left the hospital with my firstborn child before I realized exactly how big a sacrifice that was for God. I wouldn’t let my child die for anyone, let alone hurtful, sinful strangers.
It’s good to know God loves me more than I deserve.