People will do crazy things for love. Perhaps you've done something crazy yourself – maybe you drove all night to surprise someone, or ditched an important exam or meeting, or spent all your life savings on an engagement ring.
But some people take it to new levels.
A quick google of crazy things people do for love revealed these beauties:
A Russian man staged his own death – including fake ambulance crew – when his girlfriend was convinced he was dead he got up and gave her flowers – he said he 'wanted her to know how empty and horrible her life would be without me'!
An American petty criminal tried to win sympathy from his girlfriend – by having his friend shoot him … three times… but his friend could only shoot him once, and his girlfriend didn't even visit him in hospital, oh, and he got arrested for the shooting – all for love!
A Chinese man ran away from his family to be with the one he loved – in a cave in the mountains – where they lived together for 50 years!
Like I said, people do crazy things for love.
And that's perhaps because God made us like that – like him; because he did it first. Our passage this morning is about the crazy love that God has for us, the people he's made – and the crazy thing he did to win us.
We're in John 3:16-22, p 750, please turn it up if you haven't got it open.
And I'm going to break the passage up into three parts, with three points:
God's Crazy Love
God's Crazy Gift
God's Crazy Offer
1. God's Crazy Love
This is where John 3.16 starts, you can see it there:
"For God so loved the world that he gave…"
The point is clear – God is motivated by his love for the world. We could say – for God loved the world so much that he gave… And sometimes we find it a little doubtful that God could love us. I mean he's so far off and so perfect and so immensely mighty and busy – how could he have time for little old me? But this verse is very clear – God's love is so real, so solid, so deep and so powerful, that he must act.
And what an act – but before we look at what he did I want us to look at the love that motivated it.
The focus here is the intensity of God's love: what an amazing love it is, a huge love, a passionate love… And what's remarkable about this is that God loved the world, even though the world rejected him.
John uses this expression 'the world' again and again, and he's not talking about the vast number of people. No, the focus isn't on the number of people, but on the wickedness of people. For e.g. in chapter 7:7 Jesus says to his brothers
'The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil'.
And in 15:18 to his disciples
'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.'
Do you see? The world is characterised by a settled rejection of God that runs so deep Jesus calls it hatred – the world hates Jesus because Jesus represents God to it, and since the world hates God, it hates him and everyone who follows him!
We see something similar in verses 19-21 of our passage this morning:
This is the verdict:
"Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."
Jesus is the light of God – he shines with the purity of God's goodness – but we don't want anything to do with that, because it reveals what we're really like – like turning the lights on in the pub and discovering all the stains on the floor! That's what we're all like somewhere deep down, stained by sin, and so ashamed we don't want anyone to know it.
And you might expect God to turn away from us in disgust, or come against us in anger… but God looks at a guilty world and his heart melts. He doesn't see enemies – he sees people he has made and his heart goes out to us – he loves us, even the very worst of us, even at our very worst.
What is so amazing about God's love is that he chooses to give it to people who are completely unworthy of it.
Perhaps God is a bit like the parent whose child grows up to desert and disgrace the family – but who still longs for the child to come home, still wants the very best for them. You might think of the Father in the story of the prodigal son – his son has cashed in his inheritance, as if he wished his father dead, and left. But the Father stands waiting and watching, longing for his son to come home – and when he see his son he runs to him and covers him with his best clothes and throws a party.
I think of my cousin Andrew who was a gambling addict. Gambling took over his life, it consumed everything. He couldn't hold down a job for stealing from his employers; same with friends. And no matter how many ways his parents tried to help him he just ripped them off. He lied and cheated and stole, he broke his parents' hearts again and again… and then he just disappeared. For years no one heard from him, no one knew where he was. Until one day we heard from a homeless shelter 1,500 miles away that he was there and he was ill – and his parents didn't hesitate for a moment – they got straight on a plane and rushed to see him.
And I'm sure their reunion was every bit as joyful as the Father in Jesus' story of the prodigal son. Because no matter what he'd done, Andrew was their son and they loved him, how could they turn their backs on their own son?
And God the creator, watching all that goes on in this world is just like that – his heart may be broken, his anger will be stirred, but most of all he loves us, despite all our desperate behaviour, all the damage we've done, all the pain we've caused.
And I wonder this morning if you realise that you are loved by God – you. Loved with a deep, passionate love, the sort of love that moves mountains, the sort of love that motivates outrageous sacrifices? Because that is the clear statement of our text this morning –God loves the world with a crazy love.
Perhaps you've lived like that prodigal son and you're full of shame and guilty secrets… or maybe you've been relatively moral and upright, but still somehow you know you've not matched up… however far from God you feel, the distance is all on our side –we hold God at arm's length, but he for is doing all he can to bring us close to him again.
And that brings us to my second point:
2. God's Crazy Gift
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son"
I don't need to tell you that giving up your one and only son is a sacrifice. Who in the world would ever give up a child for anything? At what price would you start to think 'you know I could live without one child'? I mean you just wouldn't, would you – pay my whatever you like, I'm not giving you any of my children.
But that is what God gave for us – his Son, his one and only Son. His beloved son, the only one he has, the son he has loved from before eternity, before creation itself.
And I think we are supposed to hear an echo of that Gen 22 reading we heard earlier – when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac – the son of the promise, the son of his old age, the miracle son. Did you notice that when God asked Abraham to give up his son he described him like this – Genesis 22:2
Then God said,
"Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there …"
The pathos is clear, isn't it? God knows exactly what he's doing, what he's asking of Abraham. He asks for the son because it's the ultimate test of Abraham's faith, the ultimate test because of just how precious this son is – the son Abraham has waited his whole life to hold in his arms – now God asks to take him away…. And just in case we missed it God says the same thing in verse 12:
"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Genesis 22:12)
And then again in verse 16:
"and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you …"
Three times God draws attention to the fact that Isaac is Abraham's only son, his beloved son. We're supposed to feel the weight of the sacrifice – what a thing for a Father to have to do! What an awful day, what a horrible moment when he tied this son to the altar and then took up the knife to put his own son to death. Who can fail to feel the heartbreak with Abraham?
God knew what he was doing. Even all those years ahead of time God had planned it all out, and that is why twice in that same passage we are told that God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice, in verse 8 and in verse 14. God was indeed going to provide the lamb for the sacrifice – God would do for us for us what he would not ask us to do for him – he would give up his one and only son even when he would not ask such a thing of us!
This is the most extraordinary gift ever given, the most costly gift that could be conceived – God gave up his son; and he did it out of love for us!
And I don't see another way that God can prove the depth of his love for us.
Let me try and explain with a story about Anlwick Gardens. I heard that a couple of years ago someone got in touch with Alnwick Gardens (the gardens of the castle) asking if they could have a Hogwarts themed birthday party for their little boy. But they were out of luck, because the venue was booked for a wedding. But their little boy really wanted a Hogwarts birthday part – so the venue was asked to make an offer to the wedding couple to move their wedding: the other party would pay for the new wedding venue for them. But the wedding couple were not to be moved; they had their hearts set on a wedding at Alnwick gardens. So negotiations began – what if their wedding reception and the wedding was paid for? What if they paid for all the gifts on the gift list? What if the honeymoon was paid for? Eventually the wedding couple agreed to move – but not before the other party paid for their wedding, their gifts, their reception, their honeymoon … and their house! It seems one of the Beckham's boys was a serious Harry Potter fan, and Victoria and David were determined to give him what he wanted! And you can do that sort of thing when you're worth hundreds of millions of pounds. They paid for someone else's house so they could have a party! Yet what was an astonishing gift for the bride and groom, is really nothing to the Beckham's. Even if they did pay hundreds of thousands for a child's birthday party, it was just small change to them…
Now think about God – if God is the source of every created thing, if he can create whole universes with just a word, then what could possibly be of value to God? If we doubted his love, what could he possibly give us to show his love? Could he make the Earth and put it in a productive universe? Could he make a man and put him in a beautiful Garden and say 'take and eat, I've made all this for you'… Could he create a woman as a companion? Could he give them the gift of marriage and children?
Well of course, the bible says he did all that, but still they doubted his love, doubted his good intentions for them. Could he do more? At every point couldn't the man or the woman God made to live with him say 'yes, but it didn't cost you anything, how can I be sure you really love me?' And even today how could God ever get past that question, how could he ever give us anything of real and lasting worth to himself?
The only way is to give the only thing that isn't created, to give himself, and when he gave up his one and only son that is what he gave us, himself.
So if you've got any doubts about God's love hear this: we can be absolutely sure that God loves us because of the extraordinary price he was prepared to pay for us! God gave up his son, so great is his love.
So we can be sure that we're saved – God wouldn't give up his son for something that didn't work!
And that leads me to the third, brief point:
3. God's Crazy Offer
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not sent his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
Do you see the crazy offer there – we can go from perishing to having eternal life! And all we have to do is believe in Jesus – just stop trusting in other things and to put our trust in him!
Now we do need to see that the default option is to perish. We already knew that, because everybody dies, everybody perishes in the end. And verse 18 explains this is because we stand condemned already, and that because our deeds are evil, verse 19, and that's why we reject God's son – he reveals what's already there. It's like we said, when God looks at the world he sees a world in rebellion against him, a world of wicked people. And so we all stand condemned. And that's why we perish, that's why death claims us all.
And that's why there is only one way to be saved – because only Jesus could buy us back from that condemnation. So there is only one way to avoid perishing. All the same there is an amazing wideness to this – there is only one way, but that way is open to everyone – any one of us can enter by it, there is no one who will be rejected because of what we've done; and all of us can enter by it, there is no limit to how many it will accommodate. Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life.
See the bar isn't set so high that only the best of us can get in – it doesn't ask great things of us, it's simply a matter of believing – so it's open to all of us, simply stop trusting in the things we are currently trusting in and put our trust in Jesus instead.
So it's a matter of belief – of what you're trusting in. Put your trust in Jesus, or keep trusting in all those other things that leave us perishing. It's your choice.
Some of us are right in the middle of teaching our children to swim. And we know that to learn to swim you have to learn to trust the water to hold you up. And if you're going to learn that you have to choose to stop trusting in the bottom of the pool to hold you up – you have to choose, so long as you're standing on the bottom of the pool you'll never start swimming.
It's the same with Jesus – you have to commit, you have to stop trusting in everything else if you're going to trust in him.
So where are you at? Are you still clinging to the bottom of the pool, or have you started to swim with confidence?
If you don't know God's love, come and dive in with us, put your trust in Jesus and discover just how good it is to know the God of creation loves you!
If you have done this, you're in, not more to do, not additional things to do, not in doubt, you have it now, eternal life is yours. Enjoy it, wallow in his goodness and love. That's God's crazy offer.
Maybe you've never had someone drive all night to show their love to you. Maybe no one ever asked someone else to shoot them to claim your love. Maybe you'd love to be part of some great romantic plot. Well John 3:16 says you are, you're part of the most romantic plot in history… no less than God gave no less than his only son for you, to win you back, to make you his own. I'd take that, wouldn't you?