Everyone who believes: a reflection

thepathofhopeA Reflection from Gail O’Day [554-56]

In interpreting John 3:1–21, then, it is not enough to say on the basis of the discourse in vv. 11–21, for example, that this text is about faith, decision, and judgment, because that way of interpreting diminishes the full impact of the text. One needs the preceding dialogue, with Nicodemus’s misunderstanding and Jesus’ repeated offer of new images, to understand what the words of vv. 11–21 are really saying. The interpreter must attend to how John tells this story of Jesus and Nicodemus, how he moves the reader through the give and take between the two characters and thus affords the reader the chance to understand what Nicodemus can only misunderstand. Because the reader has participated in the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, the words in vv. 11–21 are heard with more immediacy. Moreover, the reader has read the Prologue and attended to the witness of John, so that he or she has a wider theological context in which to place those words. Continue reading

Everyone who believes: living the truth

in my fathers house19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. These three verses portray this intricate balance between judgment and decision in the metaphorical language of light and darkness. This language recalls the language and imagery of the Prologue (1:5, 9-10). To love darkness more than light is the same as not believing, and it results in judgment (v. 19). Continue reading

Everyone who believes: given

Giotto_Lower_Church_Assisi_Crucifixion_01Given. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. Verse 16 provides the link between the two parts of the discourse. It sums up vv. 14-15 by reiterating the salvific dimensions of Jesus’ death, but moves the argument forward with its reference to God’s love. God gave Jesus to the world because God loves the world. Continue reading

Everyone who believes: lifted up

Christ on CrossLifted up to Eternal Life. This section of the Gospel concludes with an impressive statement of the purpose of the death of Jesus. Jesus recalls the incident wherein, when fiery serpents bit the Israelites, Moses was told to make a snake of bronze and set it on a pole (Num. 21). Whoever looked at the bronze snake was healed. And, just as that snake was “lifted up” in the wilderness, so, Jesus says, “so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Continue reading

Everyone who believes: context

Bronze-Serpent14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. Continue reading

Whoever believes: a reflection

thepathofhopeA Reflection from Gail O’Day [554-56]

In interpreting John 3:1–21, then, it is not enough to say on the basis of the discourse in vv. 11–21, for example, that this text is about faith, decision, and judgment, because that way of interpreting diminishes the full impact of the text. One needs the preceding dialogue, with Nicodemus’s misunderstanding and Jesus’ repeated offer of new images, to understand what the words of vv. 11–21 are really saying. The interpreter must attend to how John tells this story of Jesus and Nicodemus, how he moves the reader through the give and take between the two characters and thus affords the reader the chance to understand what Nicodemus can only misunderstand. Because the reader has participated in the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, the words in vv. 11–21 are heard with more immediacy. Moreover, the reader has read the Prologue and attended to the witness of John, so that he or she has a wider theological context in which to place those words. Continue reading

Whoever believes: living the truth

in my fathers house19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. These three verses portray this intricate balance between judgment and decision in the metaphorical language of light and darkness. This language recalls the language and imagery of the Prologue (1:5, 9-10). To love darkness more than light is the same as not believing, and it results in judgment (v. 19). Continue reading

Whoever believes: given

Giotto_Lower_Church_Assisi_Crucifixion_01Given. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. Verse 16 provides the link between the two parts of the discourse. It sums up vv. 14-15 by reiterating the salvific dimensions of Jesus’ death, but moves the argument forward with its reference to God’s love. God gave Jesus to the world because God loves the world. Continue reading

Whoever believes: lifted up

Christ on CrossLifted up to Eternal Life. This section of the Gospel concludes with an impressive statement of the purpose of the death of Jesus. Jesus recalls the incident wherein, when fiery serpents bit the Israelites, Moses was told to make a snake of bronze and set it on a pole (Num. 21). Whoever looked at the bronze snake was healed. And, just as that snake was “lifted up” in the wilderness, so, Jesus says, “so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Continue reading

Whoever believes: context

Bronze-Serpent14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. Continue reading