In front of a national TV audience, millions of viewers saw quarterback Tim Tebow’s smiling face inscribed with a white “John 3:16” painted on his eye-black. Within minutes of that close-up shot of Tebow, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Internet searches were flooded with questions about what the Bible verse means. Many wondered, “What’s so special about John 3:16?”
The answer is that in that one profound verse, Jesus Christ unlocks the mystery of eternal life.
John 3:16 was written by John, a fisherman, who was one of Jesus Christ’s twelve disciples. John claims to be an eyewitness account of Jesus’ life and words (see http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%201-22&version=NLT).
John 3:16 records some of Jesus’ words with an important Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus, about eternal life (see John 2:24-3:21). Jesus’ miracles, his profound teaching and righteous life had convinced Nicodemus that Jesus was sent from God. He believed Jesus knew the secret to eternal life.
However, since most of the other Jewish religious leaders were skeptical of Jesus, Nicodemus decided to visit Jesus secretly at night. After he found Jesus, he bluntly asked him how to have eternal life.
In John 3:16, Jesus unfolds mysteries to Nicodemus about God’s love, why he came to earth, and how we can have eternal life. Let’s take a look at what Jesus told this religious scholar:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16, NLT]
In this passage, Jesus speaks of God’s love, leading to his mission to save a lost world. In other words, Jesus was on a rescue mission. He includes everyone as lost, but tells Nicodemus that God’s love reaches out to everyone as well.
So what did Jesus tell Nicodemus about the secret to eternal life?
Interestingly, Jesus didn’t tell Nicodemus to become more religious in order to go to heaven. Neither did he tell him to give more money or do more good deeds.
In a shocking revelation, he told Nicodemus that eternal life is based upon what Jesus did for us, not on what we have done for him. In John 3:16, Jesus tells Nicodemus that those who believe in him will have eternal life. The question is: what did Jesus mean by “believe”?
Since John wrote his Gospel in Greek, we need to look at the meaning of the word “believe” in Greek. The Greek word for believe (pisteuo) means much more than simply agreeing with the facts; it means personal commitment. In other words, “believe” means a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
For example, you might believe that the Queen of England is a real person, but simple knowledge of that fact doesn’t personally affect you. Likewise, you might believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, but apart from trusting in him as your Savior and Lord, he reveals that you will not have eternal life.
However, in John 3:16, Jesus makes it clear that God doesn’t want us to perish. In fact, according to the eyewitness reports in the New Testament, Jesus endured great suffering, paying our debt in full, so that we can have eternal life with him and escape judgment for our sins.
But he will not force us to trust him. We have the choice to accept or reject Jesus. Yet he encourages each of us to accept his free offer of eternal life.
Jesus admonished Nicodemus that such an important decision as eternal life shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you would like to better understand the reason Jesus came to earth and died, as well as your role in his plan, we encourage you to read http://www.y-jesus.com/why_jesus1.php. You can also watch the video at www.knowgodpersonally.org.