Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Reading John 3:16 Responsibly II

by Henk Hart

Greek Manuscript of the New Testament

In this blog and the preceding I share my reading of John 3:16 in the context of John’s gospel and against the background of Psalm 121, the psalm that celebrates the Creator as Helper and thus throws light on the opening verses of John's gospel. Bible reading exposes us to a message, so I have shaped my reading as a meditation with a message. So this is in every way a subjective reading, but I hope also a responsible reading. One of many possible responsible readings.

Reading John 3:16 Responsibly II

Though God’s love for the world is cosmic, it is not for that reason impersonal. That becomes clear when John tells us the story of Nicodemus, who came to see Jesus by night. Why not? If in Jesus God is our helper, coming and going by day and by night, why not come by night?
"Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’”
Nicodemus didn't quite know whether he was coming or going. Surely Jesus had a powerful connection to God. But his father was Joseph and he came from Nazareth. Better not make a fool of yourself. Go talk to him when no one else can see your coming or going, talk to the light in the darkness. But if God so loved the world, why come to the light at night? Well, maybe you do. It's in our night that we need light.

Jesus has a conversation with Nicodemus: "‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’“ The cosmic kingdom tied in with personal conversion. "Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?'" Do you not understand God is love? Do you not remember Moses and the serpent? Let me tell you, "... just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." Nicodemus knew about lifting up our eyes. When looking for help, lift up your eyes to the hills. When a snake has bitten you in the desert, lift up your eyes to the Man of God who lifts high the very snake that bit you—trust what God is doing in that man and you will be healed. Trust now, says Jesus, your Helper-made-flesh and lifted up on a cross. You will be given your life as surely as the water was made into wine. A savior has come to the world, recognizable by his birth in a crib, a sign for humble shepherds (Luke 2:12). He humbled himself (Philippians 2:8) on a cross, that all who lift up their eyes may live.

John explains: "For God so loved the world!" Our entry into every mystery is the love of God. God creates in love, God redeems in love. And, as John tells the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet, Jesus says there is no love greater than laying down your life in love. That's love divine all loves excelling. And as an explanation for the incarnation it is at once an invitation. If we want to be disciples, if our feet have been washed, then we are called to trust our invitation to image the God who loves the world. Will we? ... lay down our lives, wash feet, live as vessels in which Jesus changed the water of misery into wine of joy? Will we drink his cup? Do we hear the language of Lent?

Our invitation to embody God's love in Christ is crucial to the presence of God's redeeming love in the world. God invites us to be the Eve of God's Adam, bride of Christ, Jesus' helper. Without a body of Christ, God's love in Christ remains invisible in our world. We are, says Paul, "ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us....” (II Corinthians 5:20). We are invited to love as God loves, to give ourselves in love as Jesus loved. In so following Jesus we, like him, will be filled with God's fullness (Ephesians 3:19).

When our love images God's love in Christ we will love like the Samaritan and we will love the thief on the cross. God’s redeeming love will be visible in our love. Christ, the second Adam, will have a helper, his body, his Eve, his bride.

Our help is in the name... for God so loved,

Our help is in the name of Adam's maker...for God so loved,

Our help is in the name of the giver of Eve, ...for God so loved,

Our help is in name of the Word, ...for God so loved.

The Word in the flesh was alone, for we knew him not!

God calls the church to help, ...for God so loved.

Jesus bids us take up our cross, that we may inherit his glory, provided we suffer with him (Romans 8:17).

This piece is part of the Ground Motive project From Henk's Archives.

Image: P. Bodmer II, Papyrus 66 (Gregory-Aland) in the public domain. Used from wikipedia.

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