John 3:16 and the Newspaper Boy
This is the story of what happens on an extremely cold winter night when a boy begins a journey that will never end. I rewrote this story from an email sent to me by my precious friend Janice Marallo.
It was the coldest night of the year. A twelve-year-old newspaper boy shivered intensely in the lightly falling snow. He had stopped selling newspapers to the very few people on the street more than an hour ago. Hardly anyone was passing by.
The homeless boy didn’t have a blanket. He had crawled inside a cardboard box, his home for several months now. In the summer it wasn’t so bad. But now that it was winter he wished he had any house to go into and get warm.
A policeman walked by and the boy called out “Sir, could you help me? I’m freezing. Do you know any place warmer where I could sleep tonight?”
The policeman smiled and said “Yes, son, I do. Do you see that big brown house?” When the boy nodded, the policeman said “Go to the door of that house and knock on it. When someone comes to the door just say ‘John 3:16’ and they will let you in.”
The boy thanked the policeman and still feeling the biting, stinging cold he did just what the policeman told him.
A little old lady who looked like somebody’s grandma came to the door after he knocked. He said to her “John 3:16”.
Quickly she threw the door open and welcomed him inside.
The house was warm, better than any warmth he had ever felt. It was a cheery house, and the old lady was even cheerier.
He went into the living room with her and she sat him down in the most comfortable cushioned rocker he’d ever felt.
He thought to himself “John 3:16. I don’t understand what that means, but it sure has thawed me out”.
The lady asked, “Why aren’t you home and in bed this time of night? Aren’t your parents worried about you?”
“My mom and dad were killed in a car wreck. They didn’t have any money to have someone take care of me when they were gone so I’ve been on the streets selling newspapers ever since.”
“Are you hungry?” she asked him.
“Oh, yes ma’am. It’s been three days since I ate half a sandwich. But I don’t want to be any trouble to you.”
The lady smiled a warm smile and said “Why, you’re no trouble at all. I can already see we can become good friends. Let me get you something more than half a sandwich.” A few minutes later the lady returned with what looked to the boy like a feast.
As he ate he thought again “John 3:16. Whatever it means, it fills me up like nothing else I’ve ever tasted.”
The lady and the boy talked together for awhile, deeply enjoying each other’s company.
Finally, she led him upstairs to the bathroom where a huge bathtub was filled with warm water.
He told her “I don’t think I’ve ever had a real bath before. The last time I had water to wash myself it came from a fire hydrant that the maintenance guys were flushing out. I just stood in front of it and got wet. Even that felt good. But now I can’t believe that I’m going to get into a real bathtub.” She left him there with a washcloth, soap, a towel and a bathrobe.
As he lay back his head, soaking in the warmth of the amazing water, he thought “John 3:16. I don’t understand it, but it sure makes me clean.”
The robe itself felt wonderful from the moment he put it on. The lady was waiting outside the door and led him to a bedroom with a beautiful featherbed. She pulled the covers up around his neck and kissed him good night.
Just before she went out the door of the bedroom the boy shouted “I don’t remember anybody ever kissing me before. Thank you.”
The boy slept long hours of relaxed peace and comfort that he had also never known before in his whole life.
After breakfast the next morning of waffles, bacon and eggs with real maple syrup, they sat down together in the front room again.
In the bathtub, the bed, and while eating a breakfast like he’d never seen before except in dreams, he pondered over what John 3:16 meant.
“It must be something wonderful because it’s totally changed my life.”
That was even more true when the lady asked “Would you like to move in here and live with me? I’d love to have a boy like you.”
Tears fell from him when she asked him that. He jumped from the rocker and hugged her. Then he said “Are you sure I wouldn’t be too much trouble for you?”
She laughed and said “The Lord answered my prayers. YOU are His answer to me. I already love you, so if you can put up with a little old lady, let’s do this.”
Quickly, the boy thought once again “John 3:16. It’s the answer to prayer, but I still don’t understand what it means.”
And then the lady picked up her Bible while asking him “Do you remember what word you said that opened the door to this house for you?”
He answered “Yes, I do ma’am. It was John 3:16”.
“That’s right” she smiled, “But do you know what John 3:16 means?”
He answered “No, I don’t. The first time I heard that code was from the policeman last night. But I’d sure like to know what it means.”
Carefully she read John 3:16 to him and it was the first time he had ever heard it.
She read “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
The boy looked puzzled. He told her “That sure is pretty. But I haven’t got a clue about what it means.”
“Let’s talk about it” the lady said. “But know this now. John 3:16 wasn’t just the key that gave you entrance into my house last night, but that same key will get you into Heaven.”
As the two of them talked, she answered questions by going to other verses of the Bible to make it even clearer what John 3:16 means.
Moment by moment, verse by verse, it was as if this sweet little lady was turning lights on for him and John 3:16 kept becoming clearer and clearer to the boy.
When almost an hour had passed the lady asked him “Now do you understand the meaning of John 3:16?”
He answered “I think so, but I’m not sure. I think it means Christ died for me to take away my sins if I only believe in Him”.
The lady said “That’s exactly what it means”.
The boy said “I’ve got to be truthful. I know what John 3:16 means now, but how can I believe Christ chose to die for me when all my life I’ve felt worthless.
And why, oh why, would any loving father send His only Son to die in agony on the cross that I should have been on instead?”
The lady took the boys hand and said “At times, I’ve wondered that very same thing. Father God would have been in total agony as He watched his only begotten Son die on that cross to pay for every sin you and I have ever committed or will commit.
“But there’s never any use to ask God why He does anything He does or anything He has ever done. He tells us in Isaiah 55 “His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.”
He said “I sure wish I was smart, but I don’t understand how we can get close to Him if he doesn’t even think like us.”
She smiled and said “Let me put it another way. Can you climb into any other person’s mind and understand fully what that other person is thinking, why they are thinking it, how they feel when they think it, and can you talk them out of doing anything they are thinking about if they refuse to listen?”
The boy honestly answered no.
She asked him “Have you ever heard of Dr. Albert Einstein and Einstein’s theory of relativity?”
The boy said “I think somewhere I heard about him, but I don’t know anything about his theory.”
“Neither do I, son. His ways weren’t my ways and his thoughts sure weren’t my thoughts. And he was just a man.”
The boy gasped and said “I see it! I don’t have to know the whys of God, I just have to know God.”
The lady smiled widely and said “That’s it. As thrilling as it is to read the Scriptures throughout this whole Bible, it will never be WHAT you know, but WHO you know, that will get you into Heaven.
And son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for you and me, and for the whole world, invites you to believe in Him. Only then will you ever realize your real worth.
It was Jesus Christ who said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to Father God except through Me. Would you like to ask Him to be your God right now?”
There in the living room while the snow was falling hard outside the boy prayed and asked Christ to be his one and only God and Savior.
Several years later, one afternoon in this same man’s office, he was thinking again, as he did so often, about that precious lady who led him to Christ and gave him a real home to live in. He paused from what he was doing and almost like prayer said “One of these days we’ll be together again eternally. I can hardly wait.”
John 3:16 and the Newspaper Boy