Don’t Skip the Incredible Verses Surrounding John 3:16
One of the most well-known Bible verses is John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
This is such a powerful message, but it is always important to look at the context. If we just focus on John 3:16, then we miss out on the whole picture. Have you ever wondered what was said right before and after John 3:16? Today, we are going to learn about the incredible verses that surround John 3:16.
John 3:1-21 is often titled, “Born Again.” The famous verse comes smack dab in the middle of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a dedicated Jewish Pharisee who would have known the law and the Old Testament accounts. Nicodemus was looking for the Messiah, but missed the fact that Jesus was ultimately who he was searching. In this secret meeting, Jesus revealed the truth.
Jesus Says He Is God
John 3:13 - “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven — the Son of Man.”
Jesus says here that He is God. This is a huge deal. Sometimes people will argue that Jesus never claimed to be God. However, this verse is one example that He, the Son of Man, came down from heaven. This is also significant because He uses the phrase “no one has ascended.” At that point in history, not a single person had gone up to heaven. There was no forgiveness for sins by the Messiah. No person could get back to God without the help of God Himself. We could no longer approach Him after the garden; we were exiles. However, Jesus came to us. Here we read of Jesus revealing His deity and salvation plan without Nicodemus even catching on.
Jesus Points to Old Testament Prophecy
John 3:14-15 - “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Jesus knew His audience. Nicodemus was a scholarly Jew. He would have known the story of Moses backwards and forwards. Jesus refers to Numbers 21 when the Israelites were bitten by venomous snakes in the wilderness. The only solution was to look at the snake on the cross. Everyone who did not look at the cross died. Everyone who gazed upon the bronze snake on the cross lived. This is such a powerful representation of the gospel. Jesus became sin for us so we could have His righteousness.
2 Corinthians 5:12 says, “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus was perfect, but He took on our sins so we could be freed and forgiven. When we ponder the parallels of the garden here – the snake, the bite, and death – we cannot help but be amazed at the fulfillment of His covenant. Jesus was revealing Himself as the Savior in how He was about to fulfill the prophecy of the past and provide the way to eternal life in the future. During this current moment, He was on this earth before His death and resurrection. He was in the middle of His time on earth. Nicodemus was given the answers to His greatest questions, but he had a response to decide.
Jesus Gives the Promise of Eternal Life
After this, John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus shares that God loved the entire world in the way that this snake on the cross was provided for the Jewish people. God gave His only Son for everyone who believes in Him. There is a promise of eternal life. Just like the people with the snake bites were all doomed for death, we are all doomed for hell and eternity away from God. However, Jesus became the “snake” for us and everyone who looks to Him (Jew or Gentile) will have eternal life with Him and be spared eternal death. This is a huge deal. We need to realize the weight of what Jesus is saying. We need to point others towards the cross of Christ in hopes that they too will look and be rescued from the coming death.
Just like a venomous snake bite means death unless we receive the antidote, we are hopeless. Science Nordic reveals that it takes on average between 20 minutes and 72 hours to die from a venomous snake bite. This means that when we ponder the time of the Israelites in the wilderness, death was occurring all around them at different rates. Just like here on earth, we are all destined to die, but Jesus steps in and provides the way to eternal life. We all have the “bite” of sin, but we do not all have to die and go to hell. Jesus provides a way for all who look to Him to go to heaven and be restored. This is the hope of the gospel.
Jesus Has Already Given Us the Victory
John 3:17-18 - “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.”
Here we read of God’s heart. He did this not to send judgment, but to send salvation. We read of another visit from Jesus in the second coming, which will be a time of judgement, but this visit to earth was for hope and forgiveness. Jesus makes it clear that anyone, meaning any person who believes in Him, is not condemned.
I love how this is present tense. There is a peace that every believer can have right now that Jesus has already given them the victory. There is no reason to wait to celebrate. Instead, we invite others. Jesus here describes Himself as the one and only Son of God. In other words, He is the only God. He is the only Way to heaven (John 14:6).
Jesus Shares the Ultimate Truth
John 3:19-21 - “This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”
Jesus does not hide this truth. He shares that darkness is real and the light (Himself) has come into the world. People chose sin, but He is the truth that sets them free. His life and sacrifice would be done so that people would know that He Himself truly was who He claimed. Jesus was and is and always will be God.
These verses surrounding John 3:16 are powerful. As we reflect on the beauty of Jesus claiming to be God, acknowledging the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, the salvation plan is revealed. The gospel is for everyone, and Jesus is the Light of this world. Glory to Jesus our Savior and thank you Lord for Your Holy and Perfect Bible.
Photo credit: SWN
Emma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and mom to Graham. Emma serves alongside her husband in ministry, she focuses most of her time in the home, but loves to provide articles on the Bible, life questions, and Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 on Crosswalk in 2021. Most recently, Emma released Treasures for Tots, (Scripture memory songs) for young children. During her ministry career, Emma has released Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness, two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, and ran the Refined Magazine. You can view her articles on her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com and check out her Instagram @Emmadanzey.