Fourth Sunday of Lent | Year B
John 3: 14 - 21
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘The Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but who ever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe
in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer
darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth
comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’
Between his agony in the garden of Gethsemane and his death on the cross Jesus was treated brutally. Watching what happened would have been traumatic for those who loved him and those who were his disciples. It was probably traumatic even for those who did not know him.
Over time as the apostle John reflected on the crucifixion and the resurrection, he came to understand what had really happened. In one sentence he gave us the most beautiful and succinct explanation of these events: “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life”.
The passion of Christ induced horror and trauma in those who watched it take place. But we can look at the passion of Christ with awe and reverence, knowing that this took place because “God loved the world (us) so much”.
The Son of God could have come into the world to condemn the sinfulness of human beings. But he did not come to condemn but to save. Condemnation is not an act of love, and when God sent his only Son into the world, it was an act of love.
Condemnation can come easily to us at times. By condemning someone else we attempt to elevate ourselves to a higher status. Condemnation of others can be devastating if conveyed to them directly, because it destroys hope. It is just as devastating and potentially even more damaging if done in the context of gossip, as its spread can destroy a person’s name.
Jesus did not come to condemn and we should not either. He came to save, and we follow his example by refusing to condemn another person. This includes us, as we can be quick to condemn ourselves if we offend in some way.
God loved us so much that he sent his Son. He sees good in each of us, and whatever we do or have done, he does not condemn when we turn to him in our weakness. There is always human potential and there is always grace, because “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom 5:20).