Reader: “Anyone who believes in God’s Son”
Response: “has eternal life.”
Scripture: John 3:31-36
“He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Imagine a man coming from another world, totally unlike earth. He looks completely human and acts totally normal except for some unusual powers that pop up every now and then. He talks about things and places he has been that are utterly fantastic, almost unbelievable. He tells us that God sent him and that he is on a mission to fulfill God’s plan. He even had an advance man! We have institutions for people like that. Yet, such was the situation for the Jews and those living in the time of Christ. The people in our world, the ones we interact with at work and in our neighborhoods, face the same question as did the Jews when Jesus lived among them. We are asking the world to believe that a couple thousand years ago, a man, Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, came from another world, heaven, as a superhuman being on a mission from God. We are definite earthlings! We talk about things on earth, work, family, money, concerts, sports, politics, health, etc. Jesus talked about those things too, but from a heavenly, eternal perspective. From his perspective: Who is it that we ultimately work for? How do we love our family? How should we value money? How do we use the time we’ve been given? What should be our attitude about those who govern us? What is good health? What is spiritual health? What is our purpose in life? The problem then and now is that most people reject his message.
There is another uniqueness here for the Jews. In the First Testament, rabbis believed that the prophets received the Spirit in differing measures. (e.g.Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.) Here, John writes that Jesus was given the Spirit without measure, no limits. John makes clear in chapter one in the first verse that Jesus is fully God, which means he has the Spirit in full as he dwells in the Godhead. At Pentecost Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers, who likewise receive the Spirit. The question is not how much of the Holy Spirit one has, but rather whether or not one is obedient to the prompting of the Spirit. Believing in Jesus brings eternal life. And with believing comes obedience to the Son. Failure to believe in Jesus means that person continues to live in a state of separation from God, and remains in a position of condemnation. The God-man from another world, Jesus, has brought life, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation to God, and everlasting life to all who will repent and believe. Who could reject such love?
Music: “From Heaven to Earth I Come” Bach
Bring us, O Lord God, at the last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise or silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but an equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity, in the habitations of thy majesty and thy glory, world without end. Amen.
―John Donne, 1571-1631, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.512