I went down to camp yesterday with a group of guys from my church to do some work on a new building down there. We put up some of the sheet rock on the interior of the building. It's about a three hour drive down to camp, so that gave me a lot of time to catch up on getting my butt kicked by Paul Washer. If you know me at all, you've probably heard me talk about this guy before, and how intense his preaching is. He holds nothing back and, to use an over-used sports term, leaves it all on the field. I highly recommend taking the time to download some of his messages, or at least listen to/watch this one if nothing else (it takes about 12 seconds to get going, so be patient). Washer preaches the gospel like nobody I've ever heard before, and he's done his share of riling up the easy-believism that has stained the Christian faith in America. One of his main points is that the gospel, faith, and Christianity is more than just "ask Jesus into your heart," and that in fact, if you think you're a Christians simply because you prayed the "sinner's prayer" at one point in your life, you might want to read your Bible a little more.
Anyway, I listened to three or four of his messages during my trip to and from camp, and I heard a lot of things that really got me to thinking. In one of the messages, Paul talks about what actually took place between God the Father and Jesus, and the depth of what it meant for Christ to bear our punishment on the cross and receive the just wrath of God. This got me thinking. A lot of people have said that John 3.16 is the gospel in a nutshell - everything you need to know is right there in that verse, which is probably why it's one of the most known and quoted verses in scripture. But if you simply stop at a John 3.16 understanding of the gospel, you're missing a lot. Consider this:
Jesus bore the penalty for our sin. But what does that really mean? It means that the past, present, and future sins of everyone who would believe were heaped upon him, and he took the punishment that was due for those sins (because of God's justice). But the punishment wasn't merely death on the cross - it was the holy hatred of God. Paul Washer made the point in one of the messages that I listened to today that the Jews did not kill Jesus. The Romans didn't kill Jesus. It's not even accurate to say that we (humanity in general) killed Jesus. The only option left is that God killed Jesus. Did you hear that? God killed Jesus. Think of it like this:
God is just, so he must punish wrong, just like any judge would do. In order for justice to be satisfied, punishment must come to those who do wrong. But instead of punishing those who do wrong (people like me), Jesus heaped my sins upon himself and took the punishment that I deserve in order to satisfy God's justice. Pretty basic gospel stuff, right? But also consider this (here's where John 3.16 comes in): God sent his one and only son into the world for this purpose - to receive the punishment for sin.
In order to understand the scope of this idea, I've heard a lot of preachers try to illustrate God's love by comparing the sacrifice of Christ to the sacrifice of one of their own children. In other words, I've heard pastors say that they themselves would never be able to sacrifice one of their own children - they love them too much, which is a great example of how much God loves us - even though he loved his son, he still sacrificed him on our behalf.
But this analogy doesn't go far enough, because we also have verses like Isaiah 53.10: "Yet it pleased God to crush him (Jesus)." Now, when it says "pleased" it doesn't mean that he was laughing sadistically or anything like that, but it speaks more to the fact that God was pleased to see justice served - even at the expense of his own son! Therefore I submit to you that God didn't merely sacrifice his son out of love, he brutally punished and killed his son out of wrath and justice, and this act of extreme punishment pleased God. That is to say that didn't just God regretfully pour out his wrath on Jesus because there was no one else to take it, but that it was done purposefully and brutally.
So if you go back to the analogy of not being able to sacrifice one of your own children - even for the sake of humanity - we have to take that to the next level: it's not just about sacrificing a child, it would be akin to sacrificing your child and being pleased with his or her death - that every blow he received brought you satisfaction, and that it was premeditated and purposeful. As a somewhat new parent, this thought is unfathomable to me. But then again, I'm not God and I don't have a perfect sense of justice. But if you really understand what took place on the cross, it had to be that way.
God HAD to crush his son, and he HAD to have been pleased to crush Jesus, because he bore so much sin. If God were NOT pleased by his death, then it wouldn't have been an all-encompassing sacrifice. In other words, if God wasn't pleased with the punishment, then justice wasn't satisfied. But instead, the absolute, full penalty of the weight of justice fell upon Jesus, and God's justice was satisfied. That's a punishment so unthinkable, I don't even think we can wrap our minds around it.
So then, when you hear John 3.16: "For God so loved the world that he have his one and only son..." also take into account Isaiah 53 10: "Yet it pleased God to crush him...." When you realize these things, it opens up a whole new level of glory in the cross - in that God loved me enough to brutally crush his own son and be pleased in the working of his justice; in that Jesus willingly went to the cross to be crushed by his Father for me. The whole idea is mind boggling! I don't think there are words to describe the depth of emotion between the Father and the Son in the event of the cross.
It makes me think differently about John 3.16.