John 3:16 (ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John’s Gospel tightens the camera angle, closing in on a few individual faces—a woman at a well, a blind man, a member of the Jewish ruling council—to compose an intimate, in-depth portrait of Jesus’ impact on others.
Consider this conversation with Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus at night possibly in order to avoid detection. He risks his reputation and safety by meeting with Jesus, whom his fellow Pharisees have sworn to kill. But Nicodemus has some burning questions, the most important questions anyone could ask: Who are you, Jesus? Have you really come from God? Jesus responds with the image of a second birth, using words that have become some of the most familiar in the Bible.
One of Jesus’ statements has probably been memorized more than any other in the Bible. In a few words it tells the story of salvation: God’s love for the world, God’s gift of his Son and the opportunity for anyone who believes to be saved.
Evidently some of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus sink in, as his later behavior indicates.
John follows this conversation with a report from John the Baptist. People are questioning the radical prophet about the new teacher across the river who is drawing all the crowds. In words that echo Jesus’ own, John confirms that Jesus holds the keys to eternal life. Jesus is indeed the one John has come to herald. A great prophet still in his prime, John nonetheless bows to Jesus: “He must become greater; I must become less”.