Every person can understand why Jesus came by understanding the goals mentioned here.
In thinking about the role of a police officer it would be very easy to become short sighted in understanding what they do. Sometimes we see police officers sitting along the side of the road with their radar gun looking for people who are speeding. When it is you that gets caught you might be inclined to think, the officer was out to get you. You feel like they are just sitting there waiting for you. However, if it is some maniac that drives past you and get caught by the police officer running the radar gun, you might feel like they got what they deserved.
There have been times when I have had to call the police to help someone, or when I have had something stolen. In those cases you welcome the presence of the police. It is a relief to see and to know that you or someone else is going to get the help that they deserve. I say this because I want you to realize that we can become so focused on one aspect of a person’s job that we forget some of the other things that they do.
When Jesus came, I think there were a lot of people who thought he would act in a particular way. They wanted him to overthrow the Romans. They wanted him to bring independence. I think that some people had the idea that Jesus came to condemn. Jesus challenges that notion as he talks with Nichodemus and reveals some of his goals.
Goal I. Bring eternal life
A. In v. 15 Jesus tells his audience, “everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus came to bring eternal life. He uses the images of Moses lifting up the snake in the wilderness. This came about as the result of the grumbling of the Israelite people. They were complaining against Moses and God. God sent poisonous snakes into the area. Anyone who was bitten by one of these snakes died. God had Moses make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole, and if anyone was bitten by a snake they only needed to look at the bronze snake on the pole and they would be saved.
B. If they were bitten by one of the snakes the only way for them to prolong their life was if they would look at the snake. Jesus used this image because there is only one way for a person to have eternal life. They must believe in Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life. Whatever things people in the world might think there is only one way to have eternal life. It does not happen by being really, really good. It does not happen because everyone else in the family says that they are Christians. It only happens when we believe in Jesus Christ. It is like looking at him for our eternal life.
C. The people who were bitten by the snake had to overcome their doubts about the validity of this snake. That was not the way to be healed from snake bites in the past. Now Moses was telling them that they had to look at this metal snake in order to be healed. Just as this might have sounded like an unorthodox way of getting healed. A lot of people have a problem with believing in Jesus as the only way to have eternal life. Jesus has told us that this is the only way that it will happen. We cannot attain eternal life in any other way.
D. If you want to have eternal life, then we need to make sure that we believe in him. Our time on this earth can be limited, but our time in the presence of God can be eternal if we will believe in Jesus Christ.
Goal II. Bring salvation
A. A story is told of a boy in a stream who was struggling for his life. On the shore stood his mother and a stranger. The mother appealed to the stranger to rescue her boy, but the man stood there. The boy fought and fought until there was almost no fight left in him. At that time his body floated to the surface. At that moment the stranger went into the water and rescued the boy. The mother was grateful, but wondered why the man waited. He explained, if he would have went in while the boy was struggling, he might have killed both of them, but after the boy ran out of strength, the man was able to rescue the boy safely.
B. The woman in this story had to really wonder about this man. It seems that he was someone who really did not care about the fate of the boy, but she learned the stranger knew exactly what he was doing. In v. 17 Jesus tells Nichodemus, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Perhaps Nichodemus and many of the religious leaders of the day were of the opinion that Jesus had come to condemn the world, or maybe that is what they thought he should be doing. Whatever the case was they had a wrong idea of what Jesus was and what he should be doing. Jesus corrects them by the last part of that verse; He came to save the world through him. The Jewish people had become pretty bad, but Jesus did not come for the purpose of condemning them. He came to save them.
C. It is my impression that the Jewish faith had become nothing more than following through with a bunch of rules and doing things to gain favor with God. Even though this is what it had become, the relationship with God is more often described as a marriage relationship. It is not about gaining favor, but it is about getting to know that person and loving them more and more. Instead the people had turned it into a series of routines.
D. Jesus came to bring salvation. This was the goal of Jesus at this point in his ministry. Christianity is really about a relationship, and it is not about a series of rules. I think it is easier for people to learn routines and it is easier to give a series of rules people are supposed to follow. Relationship can be such an uncertain term. Where rules and routines are definite. This means that we need to be careful that our Christianity does not deteriorate into nothing more that rules.
Goal III. Exonerate the people
A. Exonerate is a term that we would often tie to legal situations. When a person has been placed on trial and they are found not guilty, it is said that they are exonerated. Back when O. J. Simpson was charged with the murder of his wife and another man, the jury found him not guilty. He was exonerated. The jury did not see enough evidence to convict him of the crime.
B. Apparently there was an idea that Jesus had come to condemn. It is a word that is used several times in this passage and every time Jesus says that he did not come to condemn. In vv. 17 and 18 Jesus says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.” The word condemn literally means to know something against someone. If there is anyone in the world who would know something against someone it would be Jesus Christ. He is God in the flesh, consequently he they would know all things, and they would certainly know things against people. It would give them the right to condemn.
C. Jesus makes it clear in this passage that he did not come to condemn. If we believe in Jesus Christ we are not condemned. We are not condemned because we have been forgiven. We have a right relationship with God. Jesus is addressing Nichodemus, a member of the religious elite of the day. The religious leaders of the day seemed to have a negative view of people in the world. They saw people as sinners who were trying to get away with wicked and wrong things. Jesus is very different from this. He came to show people the way of salvation. The time of condemnation is coming, but while Jesus was on the earth and even now I believe that Jesus is here to save people, not to condemn them.
D. For Christians in the world it is tempting to look at those outside of the faith with condemning eyes. Jesus wants us to remember that those people are already condemned. We don’t need to do that, nor is that what we are supposed to do. Our goal should be to introduce them to Jesus Christ. For those who don’t know Jesus Christ this can be good news. That is that Jesus wants to have a relationship with you. He wants you to believe.
Goal IV. Bring light
A. In “Prince Caspian” the latest Narnia movie, the four children are magically transported to the mythical land of Narnia. As they are exploring they want to enter a cave. The oldest boy puts together a stick and some material to make a torch. He asks his brother if he has something to light it with. In the process of looking for the light he reveals a flashlight. Obviously these are two very different instruments to accomplish the same thing. Just one is much more efficient than the other.
B. Sometimes we are like this when it comes to being light. Jesus says in v. 19 that light has come into the world. Jesus is speaking of himself as light. He is the light. Yet many Christians believe that they are a better light source that Jesus Christ. They try to be light, but are not nearly as effective as Jesus. When people are introduced to Jesus he is light and things are exposed. These are things they might have been trying to hide. Sin is something people like to keep hidden by the darkness, so when Jesus is introduced that light exposes the sin. People can embrace the light, confess their sin and be forgiven, or they can try to continue to hide their sin. They reject the light and they seek to keep their sin hidden. In this case the light becomes something to be despised, rather than something to be embraced.
C. If we will introduce people to Jesus Christ we don’t have to try to be light. Instead, we are reflecting the light of Jesus Christ. So, if they embrace the light, they are embracing Jesus Christ, and if they reject the light they are rejecting Jesus Christ. People may feel condemned when they experience the light, but that is a consequence of being introduced to the light. It is not because that is the only reason Jesus came. The light of Jesus Christ is not there for condemnation. The light of Jesus Christ has a purpose of bringing people closer to God the father. That happens when people realize their sin and are forgiven of that sin.
It would have been petty for Jesus to come into the world only for the sake of condemning people. Instead Jesus came to offer salvation to people in the world. Jesus talks about being light. He also talks about the importance of belief. As we go through life, remember the importance of belief.
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, Jesus would want you to know that you have already been condemned. It is not important for me to point out condemnation. It is important for you to realize that Jesus came so you could believe and know life.