John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
It was nearly seven years ago that my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. As I’ve learned since his diagnosis, one of the most significant problems with lung cancer is that it so often goes undiagnosed until it is too late. One day a person can be living life like they always have and the next moment, seemingly out of the blue, they learn that they are suffering from a deadly disease. That’s exactly how it was for my dad. He had no idea until he developed pneumonia. It was as the doctors were treating him for that disease that they discovered a much more serious disease had been there for some time. Thankfully, because a physician had the wisdom to look closer, the cancer was found and the treatment has extended my dad’s life far beyond what would have been possible without it. As I thought about the verse above this morning, it was this situation with my father that came to mind. I thought about how inappropriate it would have been for my dad to have gotten upset with the doctors that diagnosed his cancer. Of course, the diagnosis was upsetting, and to hear the words, “You have lung cancer,” was devastating, but that diagnosis was critical for my dad to receive the help that only the doctors could give. Yet how often, when someone hears the diagnosis of their spiritual condition, does that person react in anger toward the messenger.
Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Some of the worst sinners were those who saw themselves as the most righteous. How shocking it must have been for the self-righteous Pharisees to hear Jesus say such things as “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28).” It was with words such as these that Jesus was diagnosing their spiritual disease. It was all hidden from their eyes, but plain as day to Him. And what was their reaction to the diagnosis? For most of them it was to reject the messenger and eventually murder Him in an attempt to shut Him up. They foolishly missed the whole point that Jesus came not to condemn them, – for they were already condemned! He didn’t make them sick. Rather, He came to reveal the spiritual disease that they already had. His desire was to heal them. Some saw it that way, but most did not.
One of the wise ones was Nicodemus, the Pharisee to whom Jesus spoke the words above. Later, we find out that Nicodemus was one of those who believed. It was Nicodemus, along with Joseph of Arimathea, that prepared Jesus body for burial after He was crucified. In John 19:39-40 we are told, “Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.” You see, Nicodemus had heard Jesus’ diagnosis of his own terminal condition when Jesus told him, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” And he also heard the remedy: “You must be born again (John 3:7).” It was a remedy that only Jesus could provide, for it was Jesus that God had sent into the world because He loved the world, and it was Jesus Who alone could provide the perfect sacrifice by taking the cancer of sin upon Himself and killing it by His own death on the cross.
Jesus came to diagnose our sickness, but more than that, He came as the only remedy for it. But if we are angry at the diagnosis, if we will not listen and turn away from the cure, there is no hope for us. It’s as Jesus said, again to the Pharisees, who condemned Him for eating and drinking with sinners, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17).” So, how do you see yourself? Are you nonchalantly going along as if you don’t have a care in the world, or are you one who has heard the diagnosis “You are spiritually sick!” It’s a message we all need to hear, for it’s the diagnosis of a disease that afflicts us all. But thanks be to God, there’s a Great Physician Who has the one and only remedy for this otherwise terminal disease.