Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Unfathomable Love of God

3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus [1] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [2] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [3] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You [4] must be born again.’ 8 The wind [5] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you [6] 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. [7] 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. 16 “For God so loved the world, [9] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:1-17 (ESV)
For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
In order that the world might be saved through him, his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. This is the unfathomable love of God. That he actually loves this world. Oh, we love it too, don’t we? Except for when we don’t. Our love is so conditional. I loved yesterday. Sunshine, greeting good friends at Bible Study, an afternoon listening to the hum of a chainsaw, and well it was the day after pay day, so the living was easy. Somehow I managed to spend a whole day without the news. It was glorious. Of course it’s when we turn on the news that we begin to see the other side of the world. The side we don’t love. Would be axe murderers in Germany, terrorists all over the place, invasive pat downs at the airports which we suspect don’t do anything for our safety no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel. Rapists, Child abusers, pornography, and protesters looking for something to picket. Yes, it is being confronted with that world, that one begins to wonder how it is God can love this world. Or maybe it is when we start searching our own souls. There is a world of hell packed away down in there, isn’t there? Sins of the past just screaming. I mean this honestly, there are times I search my soul and I hate myself. I can’t imagine how it is God could love such a person. Oh, not the person I present to the world. That selfish person inside of me that can remember two million times where I broke some social rule, blew missed opportunities, flew into unwarranted fits of anger, conned others into degrading acts of depravity all in the name of a good time, broke taboos before I even really understood why they were a taboo. I think of the pain that I must have caused others, second guess parenting decisions, wonder if I have ever made a right decision in my life. Then I begin to wonder. That’s the unfathomable love of God, that he so loved this world, this fallen sinful world full of hate, sin, and ungodly people, that he sent his only begotten son, that the world might be saved through him.
His only begotten Son. As a kid I memorized it that way. Newer translations figure not only do you not know what begotten means, you have also lost your dictionaries. I mean sometimes, it is in the contemplation of Bible translation that I have the hardest time fathoming, comprehending the love of God for this world, and people who are so flippant with his word, and so condescending towards his people that they try to dumb his word down to make it more comprehensible. God himself is beyond comprehension, it stands to reason that perhaps his word should require study. The word they translated only is monogeneis, mono meaning only as in monotone, and geneis being the same word from which we get Genesis, often translated the beginning, but also generate, and generation.
Only begotten is an important distinction in my estimation. It specifies in which way Jesus is God’s only Son. This is important because there is another way in which you are his children, his sons, his daughters, and in that manner of speaking Jesus is not God’s only Son, but we might say that Jesus is God’s only natural born son, if there was anything natural about God begetting God from all eternity, outside of time and place, and encompassing all of time and place. There is mystery there beyond all comprehension, but it does have comparison. It is comparison that fathers comprehend when they look at their children. Incredible love, and it does not come close to the love of God the Father for God the Son, and it does not even come close to the love of God for you. God is perfect, holy and without sin. Our love is always tainted with a degree of selfishness. We see this in even the best father/child relationships. It is what causes strain and estrangement in this sinful world. The sins of the fathers are visited to the third and fourth generation of those who hate God. And in our sinful nature that is what we do, we hate God. Every sin ever committed is an act of hate for God. Hate breeds hate, generates hate, begets hate. But love begets love, and God is love so he begot a son who is love. And love overcomes hate, conquers hate, swallows up hate, and begets love within the haters.
So love comes to save, the only begotten Son of God, that he might save the world through him. The perfect love of God taking upon himself all the sin of the world. He most certainly did not come to condemn the world. There isn’t a person who has ever lived in this world that hasn’t understood that it is condemned, that it is broken, that it is not as it should be. It insults even the shadow of divine justice that lives within us.  But it was precisely this world and everyone in it that the Father wanted to save when he sent his only begotten son to die for you, that you would believe in him, and believing would not perish but have eternal life. And so that you could believe in him, this is why Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit to baptize us, the whole dialogue that precedes this deals with baptism, being born again, being born from above in water and the Spirit. To believe in Jesus Christ is to be baptized, because it is in baptism that we are buried into Christ’s death and raised again to walk in the newness of life, life that is further sustained, eternal life that is sustained even today in the forgiveness of sins that we receive as the fruit of the cross, the body and blood of the Son of Man raised up for us, that we would live in the love of God.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

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