Posted by on Mar 14, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Look up and Live

The gospel lesson for this 4th Sunday of Lent is from the gospel of John….namely John 3:14-21. I also need to note for you that there is an interesting Old Testament lesson from Numbers 21:4-9 that John, the gospel writer, refers to in the first sentence of his writing.

The incident from Numbers is about a time in the history of the Israelites when they were making their way through Mount Hor and Edom. The people were impatient to have to be traveling and were upset with both Moses and with God. They were upset because there was little food and water…they were always on the move and wondered why God had brought them there to only die.

God sent poisonous serpent to the people and as the people were bit, they died. However, Moses heard from the people acknowledging that they had sinned by being up set with God and Moses. Moses prayed for the people…and God told him to make a poisonous snake set on a pole and that everyone bitten would look at that pole and live. Moses made the snake of bronze.

Jesus states in verse 14 that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (a story that those who attended worship in the temple would remember), so the Son of Man would be lifted up and whoever believes in Him would be saved.

Just before this section, Jesus had been visiting with Nicodemus about being born again. This was at night…and Nicodemus came alone. Jesus tried to tell his visitor about the concept of being born of water and the Spirit, which is baptism. Nicodemus doesn’t understand and Jesus asks him why, being a teacher of Israel, he doesn’t understand what Jesus is saying. His one question to the visitor is, “If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can I tell you about heavenly things?”

In verse 14, Jesus states that the Son of Man would be lifted up. This meant that he would be lifted up on the cross to suffer and die for the sins of all people. Being lifted up, this would be a source of healing and life, as the serpent was in the wilderness. In reality, there are two meanings to “lifted up”. The first one was to be lifted up on the cross…and the second meaning is that he would be exalted…as people would receive life through the life-giving death of Jesus.

Jesus then gives us the statement in John 3:16 about what he will be experiencing. We all know this verse by heart. Let’s look at it more closely. Jesus speaks of himself in the 3rd person in verse 16. “God gave his only Son….” Some versions insert “begotten son”…but Jesus states that he is God in human form. It is a “repeat” of the first verses of John where John states that the “Word became flesh.”

Jesus goes on to say that God gave his Son to the world that he loves. This is not a sentimental love, but a love linked to the giving of Christ to die for all our sins. How many of us would give our only child to die to redeem the whole world? Jesus also states that everyone who believes will not perish, but have eternal life. Jesus did not say that people would have to die to have eternal life. He said that believing in the Son would give people abundant life on earth.

Just think…..as the Israelites were bitten in the wilderness by the snake…one look at the bronze serpent on the pole would give them their life back and heal them. Jesus used this picture to explain to the people he was ministering to (and to us) that one statement of believing in Jesus as Savior who died for our sins would give us life for now and for eternity.

Jesus also states that people who believe in the Son of God are not condemned but are part of the light that has come to earth. The people who refused to believe in the Son of God are citizens of the darkness and are condemned.

Eternal Life is really abundant life in relation to Jesus now and in the future. Belief in the Only Son is salvation, not condemnation.

In other words….one look of faith in Jesus heals us and brings eternal life. Nicodemus appears again later in this book and shows that he believed. He “looked up and lived.” We, too, need the savior. We need help. We just have to look up to Jesus…remember that he died on the cross for our sins and will lift us up and we will live.

This is not something we do ourselves. We cannot do this ourselves. If we try, we are living in darkness…not in the light of Jesus Christ. Are we willing to immerse ourselves into living in Christ’s examples and commands? Are we willing to put our faith in action? This is a journey we are all on…and when things get rough…we just need to look up to Jesus and we will be given the strength to be his disciples and to live.


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