God sends a Saviour Fourth Sunday of Lent: John 3:14-21
14 As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour. 18 Those who believe in the Son are not judged; but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in God’s only Son. 19 This is how the judgment works: the light has come into the world, but people love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil. 20 All those who do evil things hate the light and will not come to the light, because they do not want their evil deeds to be shown up. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light in order that the light may show that what they did was in obedience to God.
Other readings: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Psalm 137:1-6; Ephesians 2:4-10
Today’s passage is set in the context of an encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, a prominent religious leader. John has a different style to Mark and often provides more detail. John tells us about encounters Jesus had with various individuals. Through these exchanges we have insights into Jesus’s personality and mission.
Here Jesus draws a parallel between the reason he came to earth and an event from the time of Moses. As an expert in the Scriptures, Nicodemus would have understood the story. You can read the full account in Numbers 21:4-9. The Israelites sinned and God sent poisonous snakes among them.
They repented and called out for help. God told Moses to put a bronze snake on a pole. When they looked at this snake they were healed. In the same way Jesus was lifted up and put on a pole, the Cross. For the Israelites that had been bitten, the sight of the bronze snake may still have been frightening. Certainly for the Jews the sight of a man on a cross was appalling.
Now Jesus on the Cross is a sign of salvation. Whoever believes in him can be healed of their sin and forgiven. Dying on the Cross, Jesus offered himself to the Father as the sin-bearer. He and the Father want everyone to receive forgiveness for their sins and to be given the grace and joy of life that flows from God, the Holy Trinity. Jesus won this victory for us when he died on the Cross and rose again. God sent his son Jesus because he loves us.
I suggest you read our text within the wider context of John 3. Is there any link between Jesus and Nicodemus’s discussion about the need to be born again and the love of God for people? Do you feel like Nicodemus and need more explanation? Or have you already received spiritual new life in Jesus?
John 3:16 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. Read this verse over several times. Ask God to deepen your understanding of what this promise means for you and people you know. Listen in case God wants to speak to you in a special way.
Jesus wanted to honour God in all things. Think about the week ahead and the television programmes you watch or the jokes you tell. Do they honour God? Ask God to show you gently any area he might want to change over the coming weeks.
What insights do today’s two readings, 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 and Ephesians 2:4-10, add to the Gospel reading when we apply them to Jesus? In Chronicles we see that then, as today, some people will make fun of God’s servants and ignore his words.
The writer to the Ephesians makes it clear that while our salvation is based solely on God’s grace – not our efforts or deeds – God has created us for a lifetime of good deeds which he has prepared for us in advance.
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word
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