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 did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 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. John 3:16-18
We are all condemned. That is what Jesus is saying in verse 18. Whoever does not believe in him is condemned already. But maybe you object, “I am not condemned!! I Believe in Jesus”. You believe now. But no matter when you came to believe in and trust Jesus, there was a time when you did not. There was a time before believing that you were already condemned and on death row. You were simply awaiting your execution.
But then something happened. As Jesus said earlier in chapter 3, the Spirit moved in a mysterious way and somehow you came to believe in Jesus. In that moment your sentence was overturned and you were set free. It wasn’t that you had a decent life and a better than even chance at heaven and then Jesus made it even better. Before coming to faith in Christ there is no chance and no hope. But once you come to faith in Christ there is life, abundant life, eternal life, joy filled life. The bars of your prison cell are burst open and Jesus invites you to come forth as he invited the dead Lazarus to come forth from the tomb.
The Good News is what it is because without Jesus the news is tragic. We need to remind ourselves everyday that we were condemned already without Jesus. We had nothing with which to defend ourselves or gain our freedom. But Jesus through his death and resurrection made it possible. That reminder is not intended to break us and make us feel shame. Rather it is intended to remind us how deeply God loves us and to stir our hearts to gratitude beyond anything we have ever experienced before, because we have never experienced freedom and forgiveness like this before.