Sunday Before the Exaltation of the Cross

John 3:13-17


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13 No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

13 καὶ οὐδεὶς ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ. 14 καὶ καθὼς Μωϋσῆς ὕψωσε τὸν ὄφιν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, οὕτως ὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, 15 ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται, ἀλλ᾿ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 16 οὕτω γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται, ἀλλ᾿ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνα κρίνῃ τὸν κόσμον, ἀλλ᾿ ἵνα σωθῇ ὁ κόσμος δι᾿ αὐτοῦ.

Larger Thought Unit

The larger unit for the above verses covers John 2:13-3:21 and focuses on the new life of baptism.  In this unit, Christ renders the temple sacrifices unnecessary and then presents to the Pharisee Nicodemus the necessity of a new birth by the Spirit.   What is most characteristic of John’s gospel is his theological discourses that come after an encounter which sets the stage for the discourse.  Today’s reading begins this discourse and ends in verse 21.  The focus of this new life is solely by means of the “descent-ascent” of the Son of man, as a contrast to Moses’ “ascent-descent” pattern on Mt. Sinai and the new life given by the Mosaic Law to the people of Israel in the wilderness.



The Son of man has completed his mission (v.13) and in so doing has shown the way to eternal life which was only prefigured by the extended temporal life in Canaan spoken of in the Torah (v.14).  The only way those in the world, Jews and Gentiles alike, are offered this life is through the sacrifice of the only-begotten Son of God (v.16). However, the world’s accession to this life depends on its acceptance of the gospel and its obedience to the gospel’s precepts; otherwise judgment rather than life will follow (vv.17-21). As will be clarified in Jn 5:19-30, the Son of man’s full obedience to his Father, even unto death on the cross, is after all according to God’s will, which is his word in the Old Testament: life unto those who hearken unto it and death of condemnation unto those who do not abide by it. The word of the New Testament extends this same message to the entire ‘world,’ i.e., including the Gentiles. The divine word is unto life, not condemnation for those who put their trust in it the right way: “For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” (Gal 5.5-6)


Further resource

Charles H. Talbert, Reading John, Crossroads Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1992; pp. 95-104.

Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.3: Johannine Writings, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2004; pp.135.

Paul Nadim Tarazi, Galatians: A Commentary, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 1999; pp. 271-77.


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