Theme: John 3:16,17 teaches about the self-sacrificing love of God in the gift of His Son, and how we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ.
- God’s love is universal
- God’s love is sacrificial
- God’s love is obligating
Title – The Secret of Salvation
John 3:16 reveals the secret behind the plan of redemption; what motivated it; what drives it; what made it possible. When it comes to salvation, everything has its origin in God and His love.
I. God’s love is Universal – John 3:16,17
God loves the whole world, in all of its diversity, not just a segment of it. Every person living and breathing is under the love of God. The Pharisees of Christ’s day didn’t think this way.1
Application – human love tends to be segmented, based on our biases. We categorize people and give more value to one group than to another. The “world” of God’s love is unlimited. His love to us enables us to love and trust Him in return (see 1 John 4:10,19).
Quote: The Desire of Ages, page 24
- “Every son and daughter of Adam may understand that our Creator is the friend of sinners. For in every doctrine of grace, every promise of joy, every deed of love, every divine attraction presented in the Saviors life on earth, we see God.”
Illustration – a story, song, poem, or other on love as openness, inclusiveness, or generosity
II. God’s love is Sacrificial – John 3:16b
God in His love, gives. It is God’s nature to give. But not only that, God gives to His own hurt. He gave His only Son, a part of Himself – (2 Cor. 5:19). Divine love is self-sacrificing love.2
Explanation by contrast
- Lucifer’s selfish ambition, Isaiah 14:12-14
- Jesus’ selfless condescension, Philippians 2:6-8
Illustration – a story of self-sacrificing love; officer saves a man stuck in his wheelchair3
III. God’s love is Obligating – John 3:18
God’s love obligates us or, requires us to make a decision. In this way, God’s love is two-sided.4 He sends His Son to be one of us and to die for us, but also, God won’t let us ignore His Son. Choice is also universal – every person has to choose for or against Jesus.
John 3 makes clear exactly what the choice is: (a) Believe in Jesus and escape condemnation. (b) Choose not to believe and remain under condemnation.5 Companion text: John 3:36
Illustration/Application – suggested: something on the difference choosing makes
The story of John 6:28,29 presents the key concept of John 3:16 in another setting. Salvation is not by any works of ours. Rather, “our work is to believe in the One sent by the Father”.
A call to make a personal decision for Christ in response to the message of John 3:16
1 See Pulpit Commentary on verses 16-21, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/3-16.htm
2 The Greek word for give, édoken, emphasizes giving of one’s own accord, that is, not by obligation but as a gift
4 George R. Beasley-Murray, John, Volume 36: Revised Edition (Word Biblical Commentary)
5 International Critical Commentary emphasizes that is not an arbitrary sentence on God’s part but the working out of His moral law, verse 19, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/icc/john/3.htm
Illustration as attention stop
Text – John 12: 1-3
- “Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with Him.”
- “Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.
- Jesus’ last Passover is soon to commence. It is the Saturday night before the Cross. He is soon to fulfill the great mission for which He came into the world. Events are coming to a climax.
- Mary, Martha, and Lazarus present at a dinner given in Jesus’ honor. It’s just two miles from Jerusalem – first mention of Lazarus since he was raided from the dead.
- Juxtaposition: he has come from the grave. Jesus is on the way there.
II. The Action – Spotlight on Mary:
Mary’s extravagant devotion, she pours a flask of oil on Jesus’ feet.
- Question: what is this nard?
- 12 ounces of nard oil was worth 300 dinarii, which equaled a year’s wage for a fulltime employed man
- Illustration – Song: “you don’t know the cost of my alabaster box”
- Examples – extravagant worship of Jesus: the Magi (Matt 2:11); King David (2 Samuel 24:24)
- Note: how she chose to apply it
- The anointing of Jesus’ feet symbolized that He is royalty. Mary recognizes and pays homage to Christ’s dignity and greatness.
- Symbolism: it was for Jesus but the whole house was blessed by the beautiful aroma
- Application – her gift reaches through time (Mark 14:9)
- When we give to Jesus, He makes the blessing spread far and wide
III. The Reaction – Judas
- “But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, ‘That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.’
- “Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.
- Note: not only does the Bible tell his words; it exposes his character and the two contradict. His words make him seem caring. His character reveals he cared only for himself.
- Application: Jeremiah 17:9 and 1 Samuel 16:7 give us pause and lead us to examine our hearts, as Judas failed to do
- These two verses reveal two blind spots that are relevant to us all; we don’t see our own heart and we misread the hearts of others based on outward appearance
III. The Reaction – Jesus
- “Jesus replied, ‘leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial.”
Note: He is the defender of victims (like the kid who stands up to the bully)
Question: What does the reference to His burial mean?
- Jesus knew they wouldn’t have time to anoint Him for burial when He died. He was showing Mary’s prophetic role in the Crucifixion.
- Based on the tense of the Greek for verse 7, it may be that Mary was saving the perfume for Jesus without knowing it was for His death. She gave it in advance of His death by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Jesus interpreted what she herself didn’t even realize. NIV – “It was intended that she should save this for my burial”
IV. Spiritual Meaning
Verse 8 – “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Listen: this could be interpreted as insensitive to the poor, or even self-serving. We know that can’t be it.
[Note: whenever we come across something that might seem to shine a negative light on Jesus, we take sides with Jesus. We investigate with a “pro-Jesus bias.”]
Companion text – (Deuteronomy 15:11 ESV)
- “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” ALSO:
- “Don’t be tight-fisted or hardhearted” (verse 7)
- “Give generously without a grudging heart” (verse 10)
Jesus’ reference is to Deuteronomy 15, which gives a fuller picture of how believers are to relate to the poor.
Note: Compare Judas’ true attitude toward the poor, in contrast to his words, and Jesus’ true attitude toward the poor, which can be misinterpreted by His words. Point – “the Lord looks on the heart.”
V. Conclusion and Appeal
- Summarize main points with emphasis on Christ’s teaching
- Appeal to believers to turn away from Judas-like greed and pride in order to see as Jesus sees.
Resource from “How to Write Biblical Sermons – Part 1”
Resource from “How to Write Biblical Sermons – Part 2”