You have probably seen it on TV, at a basketball game where thousands are gathered, or a sign held up in the end zone at a football game. The crowd is roaring, the announcer is screaming into the microphone. The camera moves over to show people unfurling a banner for millions to see: JN 3:16, or JOHN 3:16. Those with the banner seem to have picked some prime seating at the goal line or above the basket so the camera will catch it.
You might have heard about Tim Tebow, a former professional American football quarterback. In the 2009 College BCS Championship Game, he wore John 3:16 on his eye black; the verse was the highest-ranked Google search term over the next 24 hours, generating over 90 million searches! John 3:16 has obviously gotten a lot of attention and been well marketed – but what does it mean and where did it come from?
You might be surprised to know that John 3:16 is actually a reference to a Bible book, chapter and verse. John is one of the four “gospels” in the New Testament. John is recording the words of Jesus Christ spoken to a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus. The verse says,
“For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotton Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him,
should not perish
but have everlasting life.”
That’s it! Just 25 words – life changing words! John 3:16 is likely the most well known verse in all the Bible. Millions can remember these words from their Sunday School days. If you have heard them before, have you believed them?
These words say something about God, Jesus Christ, and you and me.
We see God’s expression of His love for all the people of the world. No one is left out; His love takes in every person. His love is a giving love. He gave His Son, the Lord Jesus to die on a cross for sinners – that’s all the people of the world.
In the verse we can see human responsibility as well. “whosoever believeth in Him”. We must accept by faith God’s forgiveness (which requires humility to acknowledge we are inherently sinful and require His forgiveness). This does not mean joining a church, or giving money or earning God’s favor. It is accepting that the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross is the answer to the guilt of your sin. God is satisfied with the payment Christ made for the lost and guilty human race. The Lord Jesus paid a debt, He did not owe, because He had no sin of His own.
At the end of the verse, we see the results – “everlasting life”. This life begins here on earth. It is a life of peace and joy in knowing that all is well between God and my soul. It extends beyond death to a heavenly home for all eternity. Why not trust Christ now as your personal Lord and Saviour?
There is one ominous word in the verse; it is “perish”. There are consequences if we turn away, refusing God’s offer of mercy. Don’t say no to the best of gifts found in John 3:16!
An old Sunday School children’s chorus says,
25 words in John 3, 16,
No greater text has ever been seen.
12 about God and 12 about me,
Son in the centre Verse 16, John 3.
That whosoever, Surely means me,
Surely means me, Surely means me.
That whosoever surely means me,
Surely means even me.