"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16 [KJV]
The chapter starts out with Jesus teaching a Pharisee (Nicodemus). Jesus teaches him that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless they've been "born again". We never end up getting a very good description of what Jesus is talking about. Jesus repeats that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless they've been born of water and of spirit.
When the Pharisee seems confused, Jesus tells him that he shouldn't be surprised to hear Jesus saying this. He also asks him how he doesn't understand the things he's talking about. I didn't realize that being "born again" was such an obvious conclusion to be drawn from someone who has only read the Old Testament. More importantly, why has Jesus never mentioned this before? If this is a requirement to get into heaven you'd think Jesus would have mentioned it somewhere in the other gospels.
Jesus then immediately contradicts the born again requirement with a famous quote (one of the five or so I know), "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Do you have to be born again, or do you just have to believe in Jesus to receive eternal life?
John the Baptist then reiterates that he is not Jesus. He also reiterates that you have to believe in Jesus to have eternal life. He apparently doesn't know that you also have to be born again. This also seems to exclude the "unforgivable" blasphemy against the holy spirit. If you blaspheme against the holy spirit, then start believing in Jesus, do you go to heaven? You'd think they'd be a little more specific when discussing eternal destiny.
In the next chapter Jesus has an interesting (read confusing) conversation with a Samaritan woman. Jesus is sitting beside a well in a town in Samaria. Jesus sees a Samaritan woman drawing water and asks her for a drink. She asks him why a Jew would ask a Samaritan such a question. Jesus responds by saying if she had known the "gift of God" she was talking to, she would have asked Jesus for "living water".
Jesus explains that if you drink living water you will never be thirsty again. In fact, this water will somehow form a spring inside the drinker and give them eternal life. This is terribly strange so, like any good Christian would, we'll call it a metaphor.
The woman asks for some of this water. Jesus instead tells her to go get her husband (why?). The woman promptly responds by saying she doesn't have a husband. Well so much for omniscient. How is Jesus going to get out of this one? I'll quote Jesus:
You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.
Of course, Jesus knew all along she didn't actually have a husband. I don't know what this "five husbands" business is that Jesus is talking about. The woman, instead of calling Jesus out on this bullshit, exclaims that Jesus is a prophet. What?
Most of the rest of the chapter is about this woman spreading the news of Jesus being the Messiah. What did he do?! He said something incorrect, then (when corrected), said something random and crazy. Where did she get the idea that he is the Messiah? She never even ended up getting the mysterious "living water".
The chapter ends with one more anticlimactic "miracle". An official comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his son. Jesus bemoans the fact that people need miraculous signs to believe. Huh? It sounds like this man does believe. Why else would he come to Jesus to heal his son?
The official begs Jesus to come to his house and heal his son. Instead of going with the man, Jesus tells him to leave and that his son will be fine. The official, upon going home, finds that his son's condition improved at the same time Jesus told him to leave. Jesus's miracles seem incredibly un-miraculous in the gospel of John. I know I complained about Mark, when Jesus had to spit in people's faces for his magic to work. But at least then you could tell he was doing something. Now he vaguely says "bugger off" to perform his miracles?
John lists this as Jesus's second miraculous sign. I'm assuming the other sign was Jesus telling his mom to go away (thus changing water into wine)
Two Russian art curators face up to three years in jail for "defaming the Russian soul".
How did they accomplish this soul defaming? By blaspheming against Jesus, of course. One image was of Jesus with Mickey Mouse ears. The other was Jesus being crucified, with his head replaced by an order of Lenin medal.
The title of the exhibit, "forbidden art", turned out to be all too true. When the Orthodox Church of Russia caught wind of the exhibit they demanded the curators be prosecuted under a law meant to prohibit "religious hatred". Reportedly, even Russia's culture minister doesn't think they've broken the law.
I'm constantly grateful that I live in a country where I can say what I want about Jesus (and this blog can exist). It puts me in the mood to exercise my rights: