Monday, April 01, 2024

John 3:14-21; The Fourth Sunday in Lent; March 10, 2024;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”” (John 3:14–21, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So, what is this very familiar text doing in Lent? “God so loved the world…” If you know only one verse of the bible by heart, this is it. You have seen the sign at Professional Football games, “John 3:16”. It is a beautiful and loved verse. It is the Gospel in a nutshell. It tells us everything we need to know about God’s love for us.

It is important that the pericope begins by talking about how Moses lifted up the snake in the desert. The children of Israel had fallen into sin and God sent poisonous snakes to remind them that he is their God. He also provided a way for them to be saved from them. Moses made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole in front of the people. Everyone who looked at it would be healed from the snake bite. John, the Gospel writer, ties this snake to Jesus. Just as the snake was hung before the people to save, Jesus also must be lifted up on a cross to save.

The passage continues,
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Now you have heard me say before the “so” here is not “so much” but rather “in this way”. In other words,

God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son.

Here is the tie to Lent. God loved the world in this way, that he gave, that is sent Jesus into the world for the purpose of hanging on the cross for the sins of the world. Think the Apostles’ Creed.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
That is the sending, the giving. Creed tells us the facts of it. The facts are what we believe happened. It doesn’t tell us the meaning. The meaning is received through faith. That God sent, Jesus did, and we believe that it is for us.

John makes it clear.
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Whoever is inclusive. Whoever has faith, believes what Jesus did is for them is saved to eternal life. In Greek it is the word πᾶς it means “all” literally saying “all the ones who believe”. The emphasis is on faith. The “in him” means in Jesus, and what he had done, all of it. You can’t separate Jesus from God’s sending, God’s giving. Jesus lifted up on the cross.

In Lent then we contemplate what it means to have faith in Jesus for us and our response. Lent is a penitential season. We ask ourselves how do I react to what Jesus did for me. We are called to the cross with our sin. Jesus suffered for them all. We dump them at the feet of Jesus. He forgives all of it. This is all included in the word “believe”. Believe means not only to hold it as true for me, but also how that truth is reflected in my life. Peter says in the Book of Acts,
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you. (Acts 3:19–20, ESV)
And Paul reflects.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV)
The cross of Jesus is power to allow God to change your life. He does that through repentance, which is a gift of faith. The Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin. He empowers you to go in repentance to the cross and receive the forgiveness found in Jesus only. Paul says again,
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1–4, ESV)
Paul urges you not to continue in your sin. He points to the promises made to you in Holy Baptism, as God’s sign to you guaranteeing forgiveness.

The cycle begins again. Sin, repentance, cross, forgiveness, peace. Not because God is unfaithful, but because you are unfaithful. Lent is about recognizing that cycle and seeing God’s hand at work in that cycle every day. That is walking in newness of life, living in the forgiveness of Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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