Mar 15, 2021
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
I’d like to share with you the lectionary from John. I comes from chapter 3:14-21.
And just 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, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.
But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God." (John 3:14-21 NIV)
We draw closer to Easter. Our meditations focus more on the cross, and the day Jesus ushered in the beginning of the end and new creation, the restoration of heaven on earth as at the beginning of God's beautiful creation. This week's lectionary included one of the most recognized verses in all the New Testament, John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life."
We use the verse in evangelistic services to win others to the love of Christ. We use it to comfort people in times of crisis. John 3:16 demonstrates the all-inclusive nature of a loving God. He leaves no one out of his love. The verse gives us hope amid overwhelming despair, knowing life exists beyond the few years we spend in these frail fleshly vessels. The promise of eternity for those who believe in Jesus as Messiah, Savior, Lord, and follow him gets us through the difficulties of life in ways that are hard to explain at times. John 3:16 stands as a monumental verse in scripture.
However, we often disassociate the verse from the two that come before it, even though intricately tied together. The preceding verses introduce a story from Numbers that Jesus recalls, and the New Testament writers record only this one time. The story does much to explain the role of the cross as Jesus marches toward his death.
The Israelites grumbled about the steady diet of the manna God gave them as a source of food in the wilderness. God had enough and sent poisonous snakes into the camp that began biting and killing some people. The people approached Moses, admitted their wrong, and asked him to intervene to God on their behalf. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and erect it on a pole in the camp center. Anyone who looked at the serpent would live.
To you and me, that sounds like a pretty silly cure for snakebite. It did to many of them, too, I'm sure. But if you believed God and looked at the pole, you lived. If you didn't, you died. The difference became so apparent among the people that the serpent became an implement of worship in the Temple that later King Hezekiah destroyed, grinding it into dust, finally ending the practice,
Soon, the political and spiritual leaders prompted by evil forces, unbeknownst to them, would lift Jesus up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. Not to cure snakebites, but to cure the sins of those who believed in him once and for all. But it requires believing, just as it required believing for the Israelites in the wilderness. The cross was the culmination of Jesus' vocation – death, the final task completed. Jesus taking his last breath. A picture of evil winning at six o'clock Friday evening. But that was only the end of the beginning. New creation happened next. The Kingdom came. Heaven and earth met. Jesus, the resurrected King came alive from the tomb and defeated the enemy of humanity. He won.
What we need to understand about John 3:16, then, is God didn't punish Jesus for our sins as some might think. God gave Jesus as the only one who could live humanity as he intended it. Jesus lived out the vocation God gave Adam, but Adam failed. He gave the vocation to Noah, but Noah failed. Abraham failed. Moses and the Israelites failed. The Israelites looked for a Messiah who would bring them out of exile and looked for God to return to the Temple to dwell there. They never recognized Jesus as the embodiment of God in human form. The Messiah, God, the suffering servant who would fulfill the prophecies in ways unexpected by the political and spiritual leaders corrupted by a broken world.
God gave himself in perfect humanity, in perfect love, to live out the vocation he gave to humans who could not carry out his plan, so he did it himself. He lived a life of love and suffering and sacrifice, bringing heaven to earth in unexpected ways to dwell with us. The interesting word used is not dwell or live with us, but he tabernacled with us, temple words, God coming to meet man words. On earth as in heaven words.
The passage we shared shows us God loves the world like he loves the Israelites. The world lifted his son like Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness, but rather than living a few years by viewing the serpent, we can live eternally by believing in the son. God so loved the world he came in the form of humanity to save it.
In the wilderness, believers lived, non-believers died. Both had the same opportunity. Both could look at the serpent if they chose to do so. Believers chose to look at the serpent lifted up on the pole because they believed it could cure them. Non-believers never made an effort and died in their tent. Only one group found life.
The light came into the world. Believers in the light found life. Non-believers remained in darkness and death. Both have the same opportunity. Both can have life, but only one group will receive it. Only those who come out into the light and have their deeds exposed can find forgiveness for their deeds. Only those who believe can find life. Those who do not believe are condemned already because they refuse to come out of their darkness, and like the Israelites who failed to believe in the wilderness and stayed huddled in their tents, the poison will kill them.
Does God desire that we suffer and die in our sins? No. It's why he came in the first place. He so loved us that he came. He took the world's sins upon himself. But covenants have two sides. He did the hard part; he died on a Roman cross for us. He asks us to lift up our eyes to the cross and believe in him. Meditate on this short passage this week. What does it mean to you? Let it soak into your soul as you understand what Jesus did for you on the cross that day 2000 years ago.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV): Scripture are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™. Used by permission of Zondervan