Our Bible passage today is about God’s love for the world. It starts with what must be one of the most well-known verses.
God gave his son. We all have heard this, so it doesn’t have the same force it had when it was first spoken. Back in those days it was impossible to imagine any god doing such a thing. The Greek gods had sons, but they wouldn’t have sacrificed them for us. They were more likely to ask us to sacrifice our sons for them. The other pagan gods were the same.
There was a Caananite god called Molech who demanded child sacrifice. The chosen people were told not to do this in verses such as Leviticus 20:2. “Give the people of Israel these instructions, which apply both to native Israelites and to the foreigners living in Israel. If any of them offer their children as a sacrifice to Molech, they must be put to death. The people of the community must stone them to death.”
In Ezekiel 20 God says, “They refused to keep my decrees and follow my regulations, even though obedience would have given them life. And they also violated my Sabbath days. So again I threatened to pour out my fury on them.” Verse 26 reveals that one of the sins was child sacrifice in direct violation of the explicit command in Leviticus.
A concept that the people of Jesus’ day would understand was that God would send his son to punish them. Instead he sent his son to die for them. It didn’t make much sense to the people of the day. It still doesn’t make sense to many people. They find it offensive. It’s just as Paul said.
“So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” (1 Corinthians 1:23) “우리는 십자가에 못박히신 그리스도를 전합니다. 이것이 유대인에게는 거치는 돌이며 이방인에게는 어리석은 것입니다.”
Jesus said that “everyone who believes in him will not perish”.
All who believe in Jesus escape destruction. Everyone is heading to destruction, except those who believe in Jesus. They receive eternal life.
This is where it becomes difficult for many people. Why would a God of love send anyone to destruction? Let’s look at what Jesus is saying and see if we can find an answer to this question. It’s important to have some understanding of God’s motivation. Is he sending people to destruction because he is angry at us all for how we are living?
Please look at the next verse of our passage today. In verse 17 we find the word ‘judge’.
This introduces us to the concept of biblical judgement. It also opens the door to a lot of confusion and disagreement.
In Judaism, beliefs vary about a last day of judgement for all mankind. Some rabbis hold that there will be such a day following the resurrection of the dead. Others hold that this accounting and judgement happens when one dies. Still others hold that the last judgement only applies to the gentiles (goyim) and not the Jewish people.
Among Christians there are many views of judgement and the last day. In fact among some views there are three judgement days. Some say it has already happened. Some say it happens when you die. Some say it happens on that day when Christ returns. There are Bible verses to support all these views.
Even within the same groups there is dispute. Among those who accept Protestant Millennialism, for example, what happens after death and before the final judgement is hotly contested. Some believe all people sleep in Sheol until the resurrection. Others believe Christians dwell in Heaven and pagans wander the earth. Still others consider the time to pass instantaneously.
Let’s sidestep these disputes for now and just agree that there is judgement.
The word judge means to separate. It doesn’t mean punish or kill. Judge means to look at a flock and to put all the sheep on one side and all the goats on the other. It’s as if Jesus looks at all the people and picks out the ones who belong to him.
A word we sometimes confuse with ‘judge’ is ‘convict’. Jesus said in John 16:8 that the Holy Spirit convicts those who don’t know Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals to them their guilt, giving the people time to repent and believe before judgement. Believers are not convicted. Hebrews 6:4 says believers are enlightened.
In today’s Scripture, Jesus says that judgement is not why he came. He doesn’t say there is no judgement, only that it isn’t why he came. He came to save us. He came to set us free, and left the Holy Spirit to bring us to belief.
The Spirit helps us perceive and understand the truth. In addition, he helps us obey and live out the teachings of Christ. Our part is to be fully committed to Christ and to be responsive to the Spirit.
“He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.”
The Holy Spirit guides us with regard to all aspects of truth. The Holy Spirit not only enlightens us with truth, but he also makes the presence of Jesus himself known to us.
Jesus says in verse 18 of today’s Scripture that judgement has already happened.
This is a little scary, because Jesus seems to be saying that you have already judged yourself. You have chosen whether to believe in the Messiah or reject the Messiah.
The light has come. It has shone in the darkness. Some people have seen the light and moved toward it. Some people have seen the light and moved away.
Jesus says that is the basis of the judgement. How did you respond to the light? Did you hide from it, or embrace it?
He says evil people “refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.”
Before God sent Jesus into the world, there was no light. All was darkness. Everyone was about to perish. All people were moving toward destruction. It was like a massive conveyor belt that no one could get off. It was like a nightmare. God told people how to get off, but they couldn’t do it. So he put his son on the conveyor belt of doom. He put his son there to rescue the people who couldn’t rescue themselves.
But when the son came and shone brightly, lots of people ran away. They still run away from the light because they have been convicted. They know what they are like and cannot face it.
But God’s love is so great that he doesn’t care how disgusting you are, he wants to save you. Jesus came to save you, not to judge you. Jesus came so that you won’t perish.
It’s his free gift. We don’t need to worry about judgement day. We only need to trust Jesus and walk in the light. If we believe in him we have put ourselves in his arms and are safe.
Those who do what is right come to the light so others can see God at work.
It’s the greatest news possible. When you are judged it is to save you. The judge calls out, he’s my lamb. She’s my sheep. Bring them here. They are not to perish. They are to have eternal life.
I am so encouraged by Jesus’ words here, I hope you are too.