John 3:16: Meaning Of Tim Tebow's Touted Bible Verse And A Look Into Religion In Sports

Broncos star Tim Tebow once touted the Bible passage John 3:16 on his eye-black during his days as a Florida Gator, but the scripture passage gained more attention after the quarterback's 316 yards passing helped Denver clinch a nail-biting, overtime victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

The quarterback's highly publicized Christian image has long been discussed among sports fans nationwide, but what's the significance of Tebow's favorite scripture passage and how has religion played a role in sports?

John 3:16 is a central scripture passage for Evangelical Christians, and it reads:

"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."

When Tebow etched the scripture in his eye-black for the 2009 BCS Championship Game, about 92 million people conducted a web search for the term, the Palm Beach Post reports.

The verse has previously made appearances at sporting games, most notably on sports fan Rollen Stewart's T-shirts and banners during the 1980s, Forbes reports. The born-again Christian wore a rainbow wig and displayed signs at games and major events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup.

During Sunday's game against the Steelers, the three-number sequence popped up more than a few times. CBS reports:

As our brilliant commenters point out below, Tebow completed 10 passes. That means he averaged 31.6 yards per pass. His final pass was to Thomas who just happens to have been born on Christmas Day. (!)

Oh and this: the Steelers-Broncos game was the most-watched wild-card game since 1988. In the final quarter-hour, the overnight rating was 31.6. Weird stuff man, weird stuff.

As it turns out, the lone interception thrown in the game on Sunday night came from Ben Roethlisberger. What down and distance were involved when he threw it? Third and 16. Of course.

Tebow isn't the first athlete to flaunt his faith in the limelight. Big-time athletes such as Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali and basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have also been known for their religious beliefs.

In 2009, former Alabama player Mark Ingram spoke about God and the role faith played during his childhood when he received the Heisman trophy, a Yahoo! contributor observes.

In addition, Tebow is in good company with other NFL players, such as Cincinnati Bengals player Andy Dalton and Cleveland Browns player Colt McCoy, who also belong to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Christian News Today reports.

However, Tebow's expression of his Christian faith isn't always well-received and has occasionally become the focus of several parodies.

"Tebowing" quickly turned into an online meme, as web users photographed or videoed themselves taking a knee at random times, mimicking the quarterback's pause for prayer on the field.

In December, a "Saturday Night Live" skit featured Jesus coming into the Broncos' locker room, asking Tebow to "take it down a notch."

And in November, the quarterback unintentionally spurred a bout of controversy when fans began creating "Jesus" jerseys using Tebow's number.

But despite all of the flak, Tebow, perhaps unsurprisingly, had one person to thank after Sunday's win.

"First and foremost I just want to thank my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. He's done so much in my life," Tebow told the media, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Below, photos of other athletes Tebowing:

Athletes Tebowing