Thursday, October 05, 2006

Only Son

“For God so loved the world the
at He gave His only begotten Son, 
that whoever believes in Him 
should not perish but have everlasting life.”
(John 3:16)

A verse well known to many, but is there going on in this verse than meets the eye. As we’ve seen John is working from several different palettes. We’ve looked some at the aspect of the heavenly perspective of Jesus, as well as how He fits into the immediate story of Israel as the Passover Lamb. John also shows throughout his Gospel Jesus’ relationship towards a specific group of religious leaders, but I’ll leave that one to you to plunder. Here in verse sixteen, John is actually working from one of the aforementioned palettes and another, which we have not yet mentioned, except in passing.

The first of those, has to do with the heavenly perspective of who Jesus is. John says, whoever “believes in Him.” We typically say that means we “believe that is Lord,” or “the Son of God.” It seems that John is infatuated with belief, and compared to the other Gospel writers he is. For you have no other statement like this in the Synoptic Gospels. John uses this word at least eighty-five times! In comparison, Matthew and Luke use it nine times and Mark fourteen. Therefore, the question becomes, if there is no other statement like it in the other Gospels, what must it mean? And, since it isn’t in the other Gospels does it mean more than we have typically attributed it to mean? Furthermore, does the use of the word “in” or “enter” influence what John was trying to communicate? Because he actually says “whoever believes into Jesus,” which at first glance seems to be something entirely different, or at least more than “believing” about Jesus, that He came and rose again.

All of these questions, must then be placed into the bigger question of, how does John want us to Jesus? What portrait is he painting for us to look at? Thus far, the emphasis has been on the divine aspect of Jesus’ being or how Jesus is seen from a heavenly perspective, which is diametrically different than the other Gospels. So, with that being said, how does all that play into his copious use of the word believe found throughout this Gospel? I’ll leave those questions and others for you to meditate on and gain insight into, especially since John has this belief that the Holy Spirit was sent for the very purpose of teaching us the things about God (See John 14:26, 16:5-15; 1 John 2:27).

The Second thread found in this verse carries with it something that can only come by heavenly endowment, but it also taps into the meta-narrative of Scripture. It has to do with love. John says, that God so loved the world. Love is another of those words that is inescapable to be struck by as you read through his Gospel. He uses one variation of that word at least thirty-three times, and once again, the other Gospels use it between five to ten times. John writes from the perspective of one who defines his very being and personhood as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20).

Now let’s Midrash this passage a bit. Midrash, is a Jewish concept of digging deep into the passage. It looks at a passage and at each point, image, or thoughts says, Have I seen this somewhere in the text before? Where else do I find this in the text? Is there a chance that this is a picture of something else? Or, is this a picture of something else?

There are a several methods that can be used to help decipher all the hidden meanings in a text. One is called the principle of first mention. The idea behind this principle, is that the first time a person, place or thing is mentioned in Scripture, there are often keys and insights about that particular person, place, or name that are given in the description that will remain consistent throughout all of Scripture. Scripture is literally loaded with countless examples. Therefore, when you come to a particular phrase or word that carries with it a sense of significance or even peculiarity, one must stop and ask questions regarding that phrase, word, etc to see where it has been seen in other places, how it was used, and most notably where was the first place it was used. And, is there something about how it was used the first time that bears significant on its present use? For John’s early readers, those steeped in the story of the Biblical text, this was common practice and John knows it. And, as with the other Gospel writers, John will use any and everything to communicate his perspective using numerous layers and multiple dimensions at the same time. These guys are inspired geniuses.

John writes what he writes what he writes, when he writes it with this principle in mind. He does this both with the word believe and the word love. Since we’ve already spent some time on believe(d), I’ll let you dig that one up yourself.

John’s first mention of the word love is in 3:16 - "for God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son." Where is the first place this word is used in Scripture? With a little digging, we discover that love is first mentioned in Genesis 22. The amazing thing is, Genesis 22 is where God tells Abraham to take "your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love" and offer him as a sacrifice. Do you think this is mere coincidence? No way! John is doing something very deliberate here, as well as through throughout the whole of his account. He wants his readers to see the intimate connection between Abraham and his son - his only son, and God and God's Son – His only Son.

Portraits of Jesus        

Grab a concordance and trail through the Gospel of John paying close attention to the Johns use of the word believe in and love. How are these two used individually and together?

Can you find any more allusions back to the Abraham? Take note how he’s mentioned in John’s Gospel.

Can you find any other key phrases or words that are intimately connected to the meta-narrative of Scripture?

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