A Way Out

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, two men were having a conversation. The wiser one, JC, was attempting to explain to his new friend Nick how the Kingdom of God works. He had begun the conversation by stating that one had to be ”born again” to attain the kingdom, and Nick was thoroughly confused as he tried to imagine his adult self being birthed again from his mother’s womb. So JC took another approach, and shifted the conversation to God’s activity in the process.

He explained that God’s love for the world was so ginormous, he sent a begotten son to save it. That perked Nick’s ears up, as the phrase ”begotten” harkened back to his Jewish roots. Every Jew knew the story of the sacrifice Abraham was willing to make of his begotten son. Every Jew knew the surprise ending to that story. It turned out that the God of Love gives, and does not require, sacrifice. A ram was provided for the offering and Isaac returned home with his father. So Nick was onboard with the notion of a substitute begotten Son being given in sacrifice as an offering. Perhaps this JC fellow was on to something.

John 3 (The Message)

13-15 “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.

At this point Nick is beginning to realize that the Son of Man is the one who has come to offer eternal life to God’s people. But in his way of thinking, it was just another sacrificial sin-offering that would probably have to be repeated, just as all sin-offerings did. After all, the whole offering system was designed to expiate sinful actions, which of course were going to happen again and again. But JC went on to explain that THIS offering was different:

And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

Nick was amazed to think that God SO loved the world that he offered up his only son as a once-and-for-all sin offering, whose sacrifice at the altar would put the entire world right again. This life, once taken, would be proof of God’s grace, not his condemnation. God’s love was so great, he created a way out.

Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

JC told Nick one more thing before he turned to leave. It all hinged on belief. Those who believe would never eternally die, but instead they would eternally live. Those who refused to believe have already condemned themselves by their unbelief.

The condemnation comes not from God, but from their unbelief.

Little did Nicodemus realize that this conversation would be recorded by a man named John, and would be repeated millions of times throughout history. It would appear on signs and posters, and become a mantra for believers. It even would show up at sports stadiums with the simple designation ”John 3:16.”

It all hinges on belief. Do you believe?

God So Loved the World by Kathy Schumacher

Easter Eggs

Movie-goers love to find “Easter eggs” hidden in scenes of popular films. Easter Eggs are hints or clues that reference a less obvious part the story. These hidden messages are fun to hunt and act almost as love letters from the movie’s creators to their fan base. Alfred Hitchcock often appeared as an extra in the first five minutes of his films. Fans love to try to spot him. “Catch Me If You Can” is the story about Frank Abagnale’s defrauding the government out of millions of dollars. The real Frank Abagnale appears as a cop in the scene where his character (played by Leo DiCaprio) is arrested. Caught ya, Frank!

In a similar way, the scriptures are full of Easter Eggs that reveal clues and hints about the nature of God. I have always thought that the Bible is one big love letter from the Director. These glimpses of his character are meant to reveal him to us.

See if you spot any Easter Eggs in this very famous passage.

John 3 (Common English Bible)

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son.

In writing to the Jews, John deliberately takes them back to the time of Moses’ authority. Moses is the hero of their faith. Moses led them out of slavery into the Promised Land. Moses defeated Pharaoh. Moses gave them freedom. The symbol of the raised snake on the pole was a sign of deliverance.

Easter egg: Jesus is the new hero. Jesus will lead his people to an eternal promise. Jesus defeated death. Jesus gives us freedom. The symbol of Jesus raised on the cross is a sign of deliverance.

Jesus is the new Moses…only better.

19 “This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. 20 All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. 21 Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.”

John loved to write about light and dark. It is a dominant theme in his book. In this passage he helps us understand that sin traps us in the darkness of evil. But here is the Easter Egg: Christ is the Light of the world, a light no one can extinguish. ALL the world (not only the Jews…surprise!) may come out of the dark and live in his Light. And surprise! When God sees your actions through the Light of Christ, he won’t condemn you for your sin. He will save you from it.

God so loved the world that he sent his only son. This is his enduring plan to save us all. Thanks be to God.

That the World Through Him Might Be Saved by Karen Warlitner