“For God so loved the world…”

 

john316sign

Go to any big sporting event and you’re almost certain to see a sign that reads, “JOHN 3:16”:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

This verse is extremely popular, and for good reason. It is one of the core verses that explains salvation. However, this verse does not explain everything by itself. The surrounding verses explain a lot about John 3:16. Let’s take a look.

John 3:14-15:

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Wait a minute – what does that mean, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert…” When did Moses lift up a serpent in the desert, and what does that have to do with anything about God giving his only Son for our salvation? Let’s take a look: we can find the answer in the book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Bible, in chapter 21:

Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert…” Imagine being one of the Israelites about to die, but just before closing your eyes for the last time, you look at the serpent and the pain begins to fade away and the healing begins to take place. How grateful you must be! What a miracle! The Lord has healed you through this man Moses! 

“…so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” One of the effects of sin is spiritual death. Sin sentences us to Hell, because Heaven is for the “poor in spirit” and “pure of heart” (See Matthew 5). Yet we need to remember, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” How can we gain eternal life?

LOOK TO THE CROSS AND SEE THE SON OF MAN LIFTED UP!

Crucifixion

The serpent saved the people of Israel from physical death, and Jesus saves his disciples from spiritual death. There’s no question why Jesus was crucified on a hill: people could see him from far away – nothing could hinder their vision of the cross. People couldn’t help but see the Son of God dying so that they might live forever in Heaven. Have you lost hope for yourself and feel as though your life has no meaning? Look to the cross! Do you struggle with this great sin or that? Look to the cross! Do you wonder whether God even loves you? Look to the cross!

But wait, there’s still more to understand!

You see, back in the time of Moses, the people of Israel numbered well over a million people, which means they covered a huge amount of territory. Surely, not everyone could have known to look at the serpent in the desert. Those who were healed had to go out to the edges of their territory and point people in the direction of the serpent. They had to tell people about the Lord’s gift of healing, so that all of the Israelites could be healed!

Today, there are millions of people who do not know the great love of God. Those who have been healed – or better said, those being healed – have to go out into the world and tell people all about John 3:16. Holding up a sign at a big game is a great start, but that can’t be the entire mission. We must go out and ask people whether they know about God’s immense love for each and every person. We must go out and invite people to begin a real relationship with Jesus Christ. We must go out and point people in the direction of the Cross of Jesus Christ!

One who has been healed wants others to be healed, especially if the dying are brothers and sisters. How will you point others to the Cross?

Do You Have a Biblical Worldview?

Your worldview is your guiding principle for life.  It answers the questions: What is most important?  How do I fit into the bigger picture?  What should I devote myself to?

A person can have a number of worldviews, I suppose, but one will rise to the fore as the true rule for life.

Some worldviews include:
Political: democrat, republican, independent…
Secular: this life is all that I have
Parochial: small town; my little life is the most important.
American: greatest country mindset; land of the free.
Religious: denominational identity.

Then there is the real-world worldview, the Biblical Worldview.  This is the worldview that Jesus gives to us, as He reveals the fullness of the truth of God.  “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” (Jn 14:6).

The Biblical Worldview is what brings everything into perspective, since every knee will bow at the name of Jesus.

Here are 21 aspects of the Biblical Worldview (not an exhaustive list):

1) Life is shorter than you think.

2) The path to Life is narrow.

3) Only a few are saved.

4) The things of this world are vain.

5) Everything comes to an end.

6) The time left is uncertain.

7) There will be a strict accounting of your life.

8) The road to Hell is easy.

9) The road to Salvation is hard.

10) You are indebted to God for your creation.

11) You owe God a debt of love.

12) You have wasted most of your life.

13) You deserve punishment.

14) The devil is real.

15) Sin is horrible.

16) There was a great price paid for your salvation.

17) There are consequences for your choices.

18) There will be a judgment.

19) You will go either to Heaven or to Hell.

20) Heaven is better than you can imagine

21) Hell is worse than you can imagine.

HERALD BOTH IN LIFE AND DEATH

Few people are saved (cf. Matthew 7:14).  Fewer yet are those enlisted in the canon of Saints of Holy Mother Church.  But who receives remembrance and praise like John the Baptist? Two feasts, honoring his two births: his birth from Elizabeth’s womb, and his birth into eternity!

To continue with a liturgical study, it is interesting to look at things old and new.  The new Confiteor at Holy Mass gets straight to the point: I confess to God (and everyone else in Heaven), and I confess to you, my brothers and sisters (and everyone else on earth).  The old Confiteor took the time to acknowledge a few other people, including John the Baptist, both in the first part (the confession), and in the second part (the petition for prayer).  The Baptist was brought to the memory of the Faithful at every offering of the Holy Mass, along with his name being mentioned in the Roman Canon.  Such is his import and prestige among the disciples of Our Savior.

John was the privileged herald of the Messiah.  And on the feast of his Passion, we see that he was a herald both in life and in death.  In life, he went about proclaiming “ECCE, AGNUS DEI!” (Jn 1:29).  In death, with joy he proclaimed to the souls in captivity, ‘the Messiah has come, he will come soon to save us’!

Our reflection upon what happens after death is of utmost import.  Most people fear death (natural enough I suppose), but this leads very often to a failure of even thinking of what comes after death.  This, in effect, can lead to a false understanding, and a practical unbelief in the Afterlife! 

So we ought to reflect upon what is to come.  Leaving John’s first birth to another feast, let us ponder his second birth.  He had seen the Messiah.  He had proclaimed Him, pointed Him out, acknowledged His authority, and it was time for John to depart.  It has been the case that many Saints have died in a way that reflects the Death of Our Lord.  Stephen’s martyrdom is an example in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 7:55-60).  Peter’s crucifixion, upside down, is another.  John is not so different.  He had been mistaken to be the Messiah!  He was arrested, as was Our Lord.  He was maltreated by Herod, as was Our Lord.  He dies in the midst of violence, immorality, and the thronging of a mob, as was Our Lord.  John Chrysostom speaks of the goodness of John and the wickedness of the circumstances:

John is the school of virtues, the guide of life, the model of holiness, the norm of justice, the mirror of virginity, the stamp of modesty, the exemplar of chastity, the road of repentance, the pardon of sinners, the discipline of faith – John, greater than man, equal to angels, sum of the Law, sanction of the Gospel, voice of the apostles, silence of the prophets, lantern of the world, forerunner of the Judge, center of the whole Trinity!  And so great a one as this is given to an incestuous woman, betrayed to an adulteress, awarded to a dancing girl! (“Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints” 520)

…and, we might add, handed over by a man mouthing evil oaths! (Mt 14:1-12)

To move from the evil circumstances of John’s Passion, what good news could we offer to rectify the injustice?  John’s Passion was not John’s end.  John’s first birth, as our first birth, was ordered to his second birth.  It does us little good to have been born, if we are not preparing for birth into eternity.  In Biblical language, “It would be better for that man to not have been born!” (cf. Mt 26:24)

John was born into eternal bliss on that day.  He was a herald both in life and in death.  He was now assured of such joy, and proclaimed it to those in captivity, those who had been waiting for a redeemer, those going back all the way to our first parents.  To Adam, John could say, “The New Adam has come!  He has come to save us!”  To the patriarchs and prophets, John could say, “the King and Ruler of Israel has come!”  No longer with distant promises, the faithful in captivity would rise, and look to the gates of deliverance, expectation renewed at the arrival of the Herald.  With what joy and elation did John and the rest greet Our Lord when He came in power to save, when He came and trampled the gates of Hell, when He opened the gates of Paradise, when John’s heralding was fulfilled!  And the last ‘ECCE’ was the best, for it was not in passing proclamation, but the beginning of an unending beholding.  John could fix his gaze on the Lamb of God, the Lamb once slain, never to die again! (Rev 5:6)

Sources:

The Catholic Encyclopedia. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 486-491. Print.

The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. First single-volume paperback edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. 520. Print.

The Navarre Bible: Saint Matthew’s Gospel. 3rd edition. New York: Scepter Publishers, 2005. Print.

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