Summary: Jesus said we needed to believe, but what is it we need to believe?
With one word everything changes, I love you. . . but, You’re healthy. . . but, I would. . . but
It’s only a small word, it only has three letters however that one word is the hinge that swings a statement in another direction.
For example, Jeffrey Fry wrote “Integrity is not everything, but it is the only thing that matters.”
This is week four of our “After the but, comes the truth” series, and we’ve been looking at various times in the bible where the truth is revealed after the but.
Last week we looked at two different buts, one for Friday and one for Sunday.
This week’s ‘but’ is found following a scripture that most of us are familiar with. Jesus is talking to a religious leader by the name of Nicodemus. And you may think that Nicodemus is a strange name, but I would suspect that 2000 years ago your name would probably have left people shaking their heads and saying, “What were their parents thinking?”
We pick up the story in John 3:1-2 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Now if you are familiar with the structure of sentences, this was a statement, not a question. Nicodemus wasn’t asking Jesus anything, he wasn’t seeking for Jesus to clarify anything, he was simply making a statement.
“we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
And Jesus responds by saying, John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
And this results in a long discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, ending in the passage that was read for us earlier.
Most of us are familiar with John 3:16 “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.” And John 3:16 is a really popular bible verse, if you’ve ever seen someone holding a sign up at a sporting event that simply says “3:16” this is what it is referring to.
And what’s not to like about John 3:16? And if we keep going, verse 17 is a verse that people can get a lot of traction out of as well, John 3:17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
And people love the concept that Jesus did not come to judge the world.
“Don’t judge me” is a phrase that too many people use to justify their behaviour. And if they know their bible, they might even point back to this scripture to justify their desire to not be judged.
“Jesus didn’t judge people, so what gives you the right?”
We aren’t going down that road this morning, other than to say that Jesus judged people all the time, one of the things that got him in hot water was the religious leaders was that he judged their behaviour and their motives. When he called them hypocrites and snakes, he was judging them. When he compared them to whitewashed tombs, he was judging them.
When he drove the money changers out of the temple, he was judging them. But that is a sermon for another day.
And it really goes back to context, you can’t just pluck a verse out of the bible and claim it as truth without including the verses before and after it.
Kind of like the guy who was looking for direction for the day, so he opened his bible stuck his finger on a verse and read in Matthew 27:5, Judas went and hanged himself. Well he thought that can’t be right, so he did the same thing again and this time the verse he landed on was Luke 10:37 “Yes, now go and do the same.” And he thought, I’ll try one more time, so he closed his bible flipped it back open and stuck his finger on John 13:27 “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.”
We laugh, but many of us do the same thing, to one degree or another.
And I said all that to say that we can’t read verses like John 3:17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. In isolation, because if we keep reading, we find this week’s ‘but’.
John 3:18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. And we like that, let’s keep reading But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.