Fourth Sunday In Lent
John 3:14-21 (NRSV) 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.In an iTunes U talk I heard recently, Fred Sanders of Talbot Seminary encouraged his students to reflect on their salvation and to find words beyond "born again" to describe and explore the richness of what God has done in our lives.
And so one thing we can benefit from this passage is that it provides some of that vocabulary. This is the Gospel, the Good News, because of the work of Jesus, we are moved from perishing to having eternal life, we are moved from condemnation to being saved, we are moved from darkness into light!
I think another thing we can see from this passage is that the work of Christ stands in line with the work that God has done in the past. People sometimes think that the New Testament is completely disconnected from the Old Testament. But here it says, just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up ...
You might wonder, what is this all about? Well, it refers back to an episode in Numbers 21:4-9. Briefly, as punishment to the rebellious people, God sent snakes and if bitten, they would die. Moses is told by God to put a bronze serpent on a pole and raise it up for people to see. If someone was willing to look up, they would be healed.
Interesting how the image of something that caused pain and death (the serpent) became the object of life if they would look up! Likewise, the cross that Jesus was going toward is something that caused pain and death and in this case, if we look up to Jesus and the Cross we get eternal life!
A final thought for this reflection is the language of eternal life. I heard Dallas Willard in a talk say that he likes to describe this as "eternal living" because so often people think of "eternal life" as something far away in the future. But no, this gift is to be experienced now! We don't experience it in full yet but it isn't exclusively in the future.
We get to taste it now! We know God now.
Our sin problem is not swept under a rug but rather it is forgiven and we no longer stand condemned. We still sin but we can confess (see 1 John 1:8-10) and so God provides for our stumbles as we go through the slow process of being transformed to be more like him.
We move out of the ignorance of darkness and the evil deeds of darkness and instead we have the truth of light in God and we have deeds of light that we can do in God.
Believe, trust in Christ, and have eternal life, eternal living NOW!