Letters to the Prison - Week 33

Hello, all. We miss you.
Before we continue our study of John, we just want to remind you that the single most powerful thing you can do for each other, for your families, and for us during this time apart is to pray. We need your prayers. You might think you need ours more, but that’s not true. We’re all in this life together and we all struggle with the troubles of this world. So, we all need to pray for one another, we need God’s help, and we definitely need the salvation and peace that comes from knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So, pray for us. Pray for your families. And pray for each other. Think God’s not listening? He hears you. He loves to hear you. Talk to him. You might be surprised by how he answers.
Continuing our study of the book of John, Nicodemus had the blessed opportunity to have a night-long private conversation with Jesus in person. Face to face. How rare is that? And here he is, one of the wisest, most respected men in all Israel and he just… isn’t… getting it…
Jesus explains why. He says:
11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you 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? -John 3:11-12
So, according to Jesus, Nicodemus’ (and the Pharisees’) unbelief is getting in the way of them understanding what Jesus is telling them. And, if they’re having trouble believing what Jesus says about “earthly” things (the things he has been doing and saying on earth), how can they believe what he says about “heavenly things?” Part of the issue with their unbelief is this: If they don’t believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and they don’t believe the “signs” Jesus has been doing on earth, then they don’t believe Jesus has the authority to speak of “heavenly” things. Yet Jesus has more to say about this. Look what else he says in this extremely important “truly, truly” statement:
13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.-John 3:13
Here is something profound that Jesus says about himself: He is the Son of Man and he has been to heaven and back. We saw a couple of weeks ago what “Son of Man” means. By using this title, Jesus is declaring himself to be the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah. Now, adding to that, Jesus is saying that he has “descended from heaven.” So, Jesus is the Messiah come from heaven. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that Jesus has the authority to talk about “heavenly things” because Jesus has been there. This is a profound claim. But there’s more.  Look what else Jesus says:
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.-John 3:14-15
 The story of Moses and the serpent is an interesting one. On your own, you can read Numbers 21:4-9 and 2 Kings 18:4 for the story of the serpent Moses made, why he made it, and what happened with it. It would make an interesting study to consider similarities between the event with Moses and the bronze serpent and Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross. Jesus is making that connection here for Nicodemus. Jesus is also telling Nicodemus how he will die. Jesus will be “lifted up” on the cross and crucified. But even more important is what Jesus says next:
“that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
That is the answer to Nicodemus’ greatest worry. And ours. Nicodemus went to Jesus by night to ask Jesus questions and Jesus immediately recognized the deepest concern of Nicodemus’ heart: How to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3) –how, in other words, to have eternal life in fellowship with God. And this is Jesus’ answer: Believe in him. Believe that he is who he says he is. And ask him to make you born again --born from above. There’s no other way.
Jesus is the Messiah come from Heaven and he will be lifted up –lifted up on the cross to be crucified and yet lifted up from the grave three days later-- so that those who believe in him can have eternal life. What a profound thing for Jesus to say about himself! But it gets even more profound than that. Not only is Jesus telling Nicodemus who he is and what he’s going to do, Jesus is also telling Nicodemus why he’s doing it. And this brings us to perhaps the most familiar and well-known verse in the whole Bible:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”-John 3:16
Many call this “the gospel verse” because it explains the key to all of Christianity in one simple sentence. This is true.  Jesus is saying so much here. We’ve seen some of it already: Jesus has claimed to be the Son of God. He claims that anyone who believes in him will have eternal life. These are vital and important claims. Profound claims. Some who don’t believe might say such claims are crazy, even. But even more essential to our discussion at the moment is that this verse tells us why Jesus came. Why did Jesus come to die? Why did God send him?
For God so loved the world.
God’s love for all people at all times –including you; right now; today—is the reason why he sent his son Jesus to live a perfect life, to die on a cross, and to conquer death by rising again. God’s love is unfathomable. And it’s for everyone. God loves even those who hate him or deny him. Will he save such people? Will he save everyone? God’s love for everyone is why Jesus came, surely.  But eternal life is for whoever believes in him.
This means that even if you hate God right now, even if you want nothing to do with him, even if you’re angry with him, God still loves you. He loves you so much that he wants to spend forever with you. This is why he sent Jesus --So that you (yes you!  The person reading this right now!) might chose to believe in him and have that eternal life with God. This is again where some might say “I believe. Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Ask God to help you believe that Jesus is who he says he is. You might be surprised by how he answers that prayer.  We love you! Keep reading John 3!

Dean A.



A Day of Celebration?Letters to the Prison - Week 25Letters to the Prison - Week 26Letters to the Prison - Week 27Letters to the Prison - Week 28Letters to the Prison - Week 29Letters to the Prison - Week 30Letters to the Prison - Week 31Letters to the Prison - Week 32Letters to the Prison - Week 33Letters to the Prison - Week 34Letters to the Prison - Week 35Letters to the Prison - Week 36Letters to the Prison - Week 37Letters to the Prison - Week 38Letters to the Prison - Week 39Letters to the Prison - Week 40Letters to the Prison - Week 41Letters to the Prison - Week 44Letters to the Prison - Week 45Letters to the Prison - Week 46Letters to the Prison - Week 47Letters to the Prison - Week 48Letters to the Prison - Week 49Letters to the Prison - Week 50Letters to the Prison - Week 51Letters to the Prison - Week 52Letters to the Prison - Week 53Letters to the Prison - Week 54Letters to the Prison - Week 55Letters to the Prison - Week 56Letters to the Prison - Week 57Letters to the Prison - Week 58Letters to the Prison - Week 59Letters to the Prison - Week 60Letters to the Prison - Week 61Letters to the Prison - Week 62Letters to the Prison - Week 63Letters to the Prison - Week 64Letters to the Prison - Week 65Letters to the Prison - Week 66Letters to the Prison - Week 67Letters to the Prison - Week 68Letters to the Prison - Week 69Letters to the Prison - Week 70Letters to the Prison - Week 71Letters to the Prison - Week 72Letters to the Prison - Week 73Letters to the Prison - Week 74Letters to the Prison - Week 75Letters to the Prison - Week 76Letters to the Prison - Week 77Letters to the Prison - Week 78Letters to the Prison - Week 79Letters to the Prison - Week 80Letters to the Prison - Week 81Letters to the Prison - Week 82Letters to the Prison - Week 83Letters to the Prison - Week 84Letters to the Prison - Week 86Letters to the Prison - Week 87Letters to the Prison - Week 88Letters to the Prison - Week 89