Jesus the gift of God’s Love (John 3:1–17; 7:45–52; 19:38–40)
Prepared and preached for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13, 2020
I will be talking about John 3. Please turn there. Children are dismissed to junior church.
What would we do without light?
How much does light change things?
Think about times when you have been in the dark and then all of a sudden the lights come back on. Maybe you were living through a power outage. Have you ever driven on dark roads? I drove two hours each way to seminary. I did that two days a week. When I was driving on interstate 75 through Cincinnati things were lit up and it was easy to stay awake. But then when I got south of Cincinnati, into the hills of Kentucky, it got dark really quickly.
Light helps us see, but more than that, light also makes us more comfortable, correct? In 2007, I took my youth ministry on a mission trip in Tampa, Florida. We left Cincinnati around midnight. I took over driving in the mountains of Tennessee around 2:30 in the morning. I could see the road, but I was uncomfortable at places not being able to see the broader area around me. Light makes us more comfortable.
Light can bring joy, can’t it? How do you feel when you see Christmas lights?
Today, we will see Jesus described as the “light” of the world.
This year, we have been talking about Jesus, the indescribable gift.
Two weeks ago, I talked about Jesus, the gift of God’s grace.
Last week, we talked about Jesus the gift of God’s Truth.
Today, we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Love.
On Christmas Eve we will talk about Jesus, the Indescribable Gift, God in the Manger (Luke 2:1-20; 2 Cor. 9:15).
On December 27 we will talk about Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope.
My theme today:
Jesus tells Nicodemus that He is the gift of God’s love, the Light of the World, Nicodemus becomes a disciple (John 7:50).
Are you seeking the Light of the world? Are you seeking Jesus?
I am not going to read the whole passage. I will summarize parts and read a few verses here and there. Please turn to John 3.
- Jesus teaches that we must be born again (John 3:1-8).
- In verse 1 we see there was a man of the Pharisees. That clues us into some things. He is a pharisee, being a religious teacher.
- The verse lists him as a ruler of the Jews. He was on the Sanhedrin, which would be like their supreme court.
- We only see Nicodemus a couple more times in the Bible: John 7:50; 19:39
- He came to Jesus at night which is why some call him “nick at night.”
- He calls Jesus Rabbi, which means “teacher.”
- He begins acknowledging that Jesus is from God.
- He refers to Jesus’ miracles.
- No one can do the signs unless God is with Him.
- In verse 3, we now see Jesus answers and the conversation begins.
- We must be born again. John 3:3: Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
- There was something wrong with the first birth.
- The first birth was into the fallen world. We need born of the Spirit.
- In verse 4 we see that Nicodemus was very confused.
- Nicodemus was being very literal. He thought we would have to enter the womb again, picture that as an adult.
- So, in verse 5 Jesus clarifies we must be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God. Verse 5 reads: Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
- This is restating verse 3, but now mentioning what “born again means.”
- There are two key Old Testament texts about this.
- Isaiah 44:3 uses poetic parallelism to equate water and the spirit. The Old Testament oftentimes talked about the Holy Spirit being poured out like water (Proverbs 1:23; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10).
- Ezek 36:25-27 is the other one. In that Passage the Lord is talking about cleansing: There the Lord is affirming the promise of the new covenant to Israel, and He says,
- I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
- This is regeneration.
- We had something wrong with our first birth so Jesus gives us a rebirth. Look at 2 Cor 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
- Verse 6 continues about birth. Born of the flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit. This means that the flesh represents our sin nature and the Spirit represents our re-birth.
- In verses 7-8 Jesus tells him not to be amazed about what He has said. Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to the wind. We know the wind is there, but we do not know where it has come from or is going, and that is the same with the Holy Spirit. Wind and Spirit translate the same Greek and Hebrew words.
- Jesus teaches the dichotomy between our ways and the Spirit’s ways (John 3:9-15).
- Jesus rebukes Nicodemus for not understanding these things. In verse 9 he asks how these things can be and in verse 10 Jesus says that he is the teacher of Israel and yet he does not understand.
- Look at verses 11-15: Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
- Jesus is speaking of what He knows and has seen. Jesus uses the plural “we” which is mostly referring to the Trinity.
- In verse 12 Jesus is saying how can He teach him more when he does not understand things so far.
- In verses 13-15 we see that Jesus has ascended into Heaven and descended from Heaven.
- Jesus must be lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness.
- Jesus is alluding to Numbers 21:9 and the bronze serpent that saved the people.
- Jesus will be lifted up on the cross to save them and us. This is God’s love.
- God’s love sent Jesus, the Light of the world, but some loved the darkness rather than the light (John 3:14-21).
- Let’s read verses 16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
- I am using the ESV today because it flows better.
- You will notice that the ESV does not use the word “begotten” but instead “only.” I prefer “one and only.” A few years ago I did extensive research on that Greek term and shared that with you. There is more about that in the notes which I will not share at this time.
- Some think “begotten” is better because it means that Jesus was not born, but that is incorrect. “Begotten” has been controversial in the past going all the way back to the Arian controversy. You can look that up on your own, or talk to me later.
- The best translation is “unique” not begotten.
- God gave his only “begotten” Son, or His “one and only Son” or His “unique” Son.
- I was required to study Greek in seminary but I am not that good with it so I contacted two Greek scholars to look into that specific word. The Jehovah’s Witness like the word “Begotten” best because it literally means that Jesus was born. It literally means, “only born.” Again, that is the Arian controversy.
- But Jesus was never born we know that. One Greek scholar, Dr. Long from Asbury Theological Seminary believes “Unique” is the best translation of the adjective. The Greek adjective from which we get “begotten” is monogenḗs and literally means “one and only” or “only born.” This is a case where tracing a words derivation is not helpful because as I stated Jesus was never born. This adjective was also applied to Isaac that Isaac was the only monogenḗs of Abraham. Of course, Isaac was born, and Abraham did have another son. Yet, Isaac was the child of promise.
- So, as we consider which term is best to translate the Greek remember that the Greek adjective monogenḗs literally does mean only born.
- However, also remember we do not form Theology based on one verse. We form Theology, in this case, Christology, based on the whole Bible. Look at John 1:1-14 and we see that Jesus was not born.
- Notice that God loved.
- Notice further that God loved to the point where God gave.
- One Bible scholar points out: The Greek construction puts some emphasis on the actuality of the gift: it is not ‘God loved enough to give,’ but ‘God loved so that he gave.’
- The same scholar continues The construction of the Greek sentence stresses the intensity of God’s love. He gave His best, His unique and loved Son. The Jews believed that God loved the children of Israel, but John affirmed that God loved all people regardless of race.
- God so loved the world that He gave His unique Son…The rest of the passage picks up the purpose: that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
- Salvation is opened to all people but only through Jesus. Look at John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
- Rejecting Jesus is rejecting God the Father.
- In verses 19-21 we see that Jesus came into the world as the Light, but people loved darkness rather than the light.
- People who are in sin, don’t want the Light to expose their sin. But people who do what is true come to the Light with the purpose that they may clearly see that His works have been carried out in God.
- Remember that this is a message first given to Nicodemus.
- It seems that Nicodemus became a disciple.
- In John 7:45-52 Nicodemus defends Jesus.
- In John 19:38-40 Nicodemus is at Jesus’ burial.
- Jesus came as God with us to be the gift of God’s love.
- This passage is all about Jesus declaring God’s love.
- Nicodemus was the teacher of Israel (verse 1 and verse 10) and yet he did not understand, we must seek the Lord to truly understand what God is doing.
- We must understand that we need to be born again. Our first birth had a sin problem, we need a new heart. We need born again (verses 3-5).
- We cannot understand spiritual truths, we cannot seek the Kingdom of God without a re-birth.
- We must trust the Lord. The Lord speaks of what He knows (verse 11).
- Too often we may doubt not realizing that the Lord knows the whole picture.
- We must understand that we really cannot understand.
- Oftentimes, we are confounded by spiritual truths so we doubt them and that is not right.
- Too often we may doubt not realizing that the Lord knows the whole picture.
- The Holy Spirit has a will, we can see the works of the Holy Spirit, but we will not know where He comes from or is going. God is sovereign.
- God loved so He gave. We must sacrifice for those that we love too.
- We must always trust in Jesus for eternal life.
- Jesus is the only way to Heaven, we must share this Truth.
- We must look for every opportunity to share the Gospel.
- We must set the example for other believers.
- We must seek truth.
- We must seek the Light of the world.
Are any of you giving away Christmas gifts this year?
Make sure you share Jesus with the gifts. Share the true message of Christmas, God’s love.