Chrysostom comments on the intensity revealed by the words ‘God so loved the world’. He who is Infinite, majestic and immortal, loves us, who are none of these things in our fallen state; the depth of the love is shown by the fact He sent not an angel or some other creature, but His Son. The Son laid down His life for us, showing the depth of His love. We dress ourselves in finery of all kind, but we neglect Our Lord who passes hungry and naked, even though He has given his life for our lives.
St Gregory Nazianzen reminds us that Jesus lost nothing of His divinity when he saved us. Like a good physician he stooped to bind our wounds. Though He was mortal man, He remained God. He was of the race of David, but Adam’s creator. He who had no body, clothed himself in flesh, and had a mother, though she remained a virgin; he who was without bonds, bound himself with the cords of our humanity; he who was high priest was at the same time the sacrificial lamb; he offered up his blood and yet cleansed the world thereby. Though he was lifted onto the cross, it was sin that was nailed to it; he became as one who was dead, but rose from the dead and killed death for all who believe. On the one hand was the majesty of his divinity, on the other the poverty of his human form. Do not let hat is human in the Son permit you, wrongfully, to detract from what is divine. For the sake of the divine, hold in the greatest honour the humanity which the Immortal Son took on himself – and all for the love of you and I.
St Isaac the Syrian reminds us that in saving us in the way he did, God sets out to show us the nature of love. he gives us the thing most dear to him; had he anything more precious than his son, he would have given it to us. Out of that great love he does not compel our love (though he could) he aims that we come close to him by our love. This is a point made also by Ephrem the Syrian, who comments that if God had sent just one of his servants then it would not have shown the depth of his love.
St Augustine points out that unless the Father had handed over life, we could never have had life; unless life itself was slain, then death could not have died. Bede adds that the one who, through the power of divinity had created man to enjoy eternal felicity, restores us through his sacrifice.
Chrysostom warns us against the idea of reading these lines as though they mean that that there is no hell and no future punishment. There are, we should remember, two advents: the first was not to judge us but to pardon us; the second coming will be to judge us not to pardon us. He came, as He told us, to save the world; but He has told us that when He comes again in glory, the quick and the dead will be raised and judged; if He had judged first, none would have been spared; this is His great mercy, that he has given to all of us the chance to be saved. Those who do not believe condemn themselves, and when they rise, it will be to torment and not felicity. As Pope St Gregory the Great tells us, the day of judgment will not try those whose unbelief has already banished them from the sight of God. Then those who have believed will be tried.
Irenaeus writes that separation from God is death, just as separation from the light is to be plunged into the dark. We should repent and seek his face whilst it is still to be found. All too soon it will be too late.