by Ken Howard
As they used to say on Sesame Street, today’s blog post is brought to you by the numbers 3 and 16…and the letters J, O, H, and N: John 3:16, the letters and numbers seen at more NFL football games than all other numbers combined. While I’m not at all into football, it’s hard not to see at least some pictures of the games and the fans. And there, amidst the crowds of people with faces painted blue were people with John 3:16 painted on their cheeks. There, amongst hundreds of people with blocks of cheese on their head were people with 3 and 16 stenciled on the sides of the block.
I don’t think it was always so big. Nears as I can tell, it started small: that one guy by the ticket line with the rainbow clown fro and the 3:16 sign. Then it started to catch on with the people in the stands: 3:16 on cardboard signs; 3:16 on cheese-head hats; 3:16 on giant foam “We’re Number One” fingers. And the latest permutation: 3:16 painted on bodies…in coordinated team colors. Then it crossed from the stands to the field: 3:16 pressed on Jerseys; 3:16 tattooed on shoulders; 3:16 in sun-block on Tim Tebow’s cheeks.
John 3:16 is one of those ubiquitous Scripture passage that everyone knows. Even if you’ve never memorized a Bible verse in your life: you know John 3:36.
Yep. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him might have everlasting life.”
But what does John 3:16 mean?
Well, from the way most people use it, you would think that it means that God is only going to save select group of people: only those people who believe certain things about Jesus Christ.
But does it really mean that?
All we have to do is look at first part of the sentence and we can lay that to rest. For God so loved the…what? “The World,” of course. Not just Christians, especially not just certain Christians who believe right, not just people, even, but the whole world. First, Jesus literally said trust in me, not believe things about me. And more importantly, he was talking about the whole world – the whole created universe – not just about us. Indeed some of the early Church Father used this exact verse as evidence that salvation that God offered was universal and that we have a key part to play in that bringing the whole world into the Lord’s loving embrace. Not “We’re number one?” at all, but “despite what we think, it’s really not all about us.”