The Love of One Lifted Up
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Those words, from John 3:16, may be some of the best known in the Bible. If asked to explain what they mean, most Christians would say that God’s sending Jesus tells us exactly how much God loves us. I love my kids “so” much – a lot – and God loves us “so” much too.
But when the King James translators originally chose to translate the Greek phrase outos gar as “For…so,” they were using an old form of the English “so” we don’t use much anymore. If we’re teaching a child how to zipper their pants, we might still say “you pull up on it like so” – “in this way.” And that’s what the Greek means. “For God loved the world in this way…” But in what way?
Jesus prefaces his statements in John 3:16 by talking about the serpent in the wilderness that Moses lifted up to save the Israelites. In the same way, Jesus explains, the Son of Man will be lifted up in crucifixion so that whoever looks on him will be saved. And it’s in this way that God loved the world, by giving up his only Son to the death of the cross.
When we are faced with hardship in the world, sickness, disaster, unemployment, or any of the other effects of sin, how can we know God loves us? How can we know that God loves us a lot? By knowing that God himself would rather suffer disrepute, rejection, nakedness, bleeding and death than see us separated from him.
Gracious God, we thank you that you have loved us so much that you sent your one and only Son to save us. Amen.