I love the way that Eugene Peterson paraphrased what may be the most famous Bible verse. His take on John 3:16-17 says:
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
God’s love for us necessitates to concrete plan of action to put the world right again. Our lives and the whole world have veered off the path, barreling toward certain destruction. Though we try every self-help scheme available, we are unable to change course on our own and we need someone who can step in to save us. And John assures us that Jesus is that only one with the authority to do it.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. He made us. He will judge us. And he alone can save us. At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that only Jesus has the authority to do what needs to be done in order to put us and the whole world right again. Every prayer we offer is spoken in faith in the authority of the name of Jesus.
The strange part about this authority is that Jesus did not swoop in with an army to save us. He did not appoint himself CEO and demand that things change around here. He did not flaunt his power or bully his way. He arrived in the most seemingly ineffective way imaginable—as a baby.
No one is more vulnerable than a baby. Sometimes as I am caring for my 10 week old son I am amazed that every person in world started out as fragile and needy as he. It’s a wonder that there any people at all! Unlike more robust creatures in the animal kingdom, we aren’t born able to walk or hatched ready to feed ourselves. We require constant care for the first few years of our lives. God’s own son required constant care from his own human mother in order to survive.
Jesus knows our weaknesses. He is fully acquainted with our vulnerability and he is not shocked or disgusted by it. He didn’t come to us from outside our condition to “point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was.” He came to us as one of us. Jesus came in solidarity with our condition and compassion for our weakness.
This is the love of God put into action on our behalf. It looks like vulnerability and authority in perfect balance. This final Sunday of Advent we will light the fourth candle in expectation of the perfect love of God coming to us in the person of Jesus. Conclude this Advent season well by resting in the truth that you are loved perfectly and completely by Jesus who is vulnerable enough to come near to you and also has the authority to save you.