So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. St. John 3.16
The second of our “comfortable words” is one of the best known verses of the Bible, a verse which is a summary of the New Testament, of the mission of Jesus himself,
The first thing which we notice is the motivation of God: “so God loved the world”. The gods of the ancient world were a harsh bunch. If you lived in Canaan before the Israelites arrived then you would have worshipped Molech, a god who required you to sacrifice your children. The ancient mindset was of buying off the gods with costly sacrifices, and the gods were to be dreaded. In the comfortable words, though, we have a God whose actions are motivated by love.
This love brings about an action: “that he gave his only-begotten Son”. Molech demanded you gave your children to him in sacrifice, but here God gives his only Son to us. God provides us with a way back, with a path through this life, by sending us his Son to bring us home.
The action has its result: “to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. Here is the heart of the Gospel, like a lifeboat sent to those in the freezing water, Jesus comes to save those who are perishing. Those who believe in Christ, who climb into the boat and trust the lifeboatman, will not perish. Those who spurn the invitation remain in their fate.
These words strengthen as we realise the great activity of God, motivated by his love. As you receive the offer of Christ to come aboard, you are heartened by the assurance that he can pull you from the water. The hand is outstretched - grab hold!