What is the Heart of John 3:16?


“What is the heart of John 3:16?” I recently asked inmates in a California prison and Colorado jail this question about this familiar verse. As expected several men shouted out answers such as “believe in Jesus and you get eternal life.” Most of us who have memorized this text as little kids would have stated the same. But I challenged this captive audience to dig deeper and discover the heart of the text. The promise, “that who so ever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” flows from the heart of someone. “Who is it?” I went on to ask. Joe, one of the inmates correctly stated, “God the Father!”


Together we dialogued about the depths of God the Father’s love for us and that He would “give His one and only Son for us.” I challenged the men to think about the gift of eternal life from the Father’s heart, what it cost the Father to give up His boy, who He was wild about, whom He loved for all eternity. I shared with them about my 3 kids whom I love so much and when I see them pain it breaks my heart. Like when my son took a late hit in a college football game and ended up in pain in the end zone with a dislocated elbow. I went nuts and ran down the bleachers to the fence near the field to try to help and to yell at the referee for missing the call. I asked the men to think about how the Father must have felt as he watched His Son falsely accused, whipped ruthlessly by violent men who made sport of it, and finally to stand on the sidelines as His only Son was nailed to the cross and cried out in anguish feeling forsaken by His Father.


As we discussed this gift of love from the Father I could see the tears in Joe’s eyes. In fact he walked out of the room to gain composure and when he finally returned he said “I have never seen John 3:16 from the heart of the Father before.” I could tell the Holy Spirit was revealing a truth to him that was bringing the healing of the Father’s love. His spiritual eyes were being opened up wide to the depth of Father God’s love for him in giving him His only Son to make him a beloved son.


As we approach Good Friday I challenge you to look at the heart of John 3:16, God the Father so loved you that He allowed His only Son to suffer and die in your place. Take some time this week and think about the suffering and pain the Father went through as He watched His Son go through Hell for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a glimpse of the broken heart of the Father who gave His most precious gift to you so that you would know His love for you, which is life eternal.





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