John 3:16 God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. 17God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them! (Contemporary English Version)
I still occasionally see the signs. Held up in the end zone during a field goal try, or in the crowd behind the backboard when someone is trying a foul shot. They read “John 3:16”
The irony of course is that the signs seem trivial and silly, but the message of the verse is profound.
God holds up a sign too. But his sign is a bloody cross, a broken body, a life extinguished. The cross is a sign that says “Look. Here is what all your best efforts and worst deeds have accomplished.”
Some theologians dislike the cross so much that they reject it. One calls it, a grotesque parody of divine child abuse. How could such a violent symbol be the sign of a loving God, they ask?
I suppose it might depend upon how much guilt we carry around. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had accumulated a lot. There were people I’d lured into my addictions (drugs) who had previously been “straight”. Some had their lives ruined, and at least one later overdosed and died.
There was no doubt in my young mind that I had caused great injury. But addiction, geography, and death made it impossible to right the wrongs.
Inside I asked “What can heal that sort of guilt? Who can grant absolution, remission, and forgiveness of such sins?”
One evening it dawned on me that I’d heard the answer many times. The old Episcopal prayer book contained a series of bible verses read before each communion service. One reads:
“Hear also what Saint Paul saith. This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Tim. i. 15.
Somehow I realized that Jesus died to save sinners, that God loved the world in spite of its evil and horror!
I became a primitive. I needed a sacrifice to offer to God for the wrongs I had done. And when I asked the questions “What can heal that sort of guilt? Who can grant absolution, remission, and forgiveness of such sins?” I suddenly knew the answer. “Nothing, but the blood of Jesus.”