Looking to the Cross

by Duane Maust
John 3: 5-21
March 2, 2008

Read verse 5. We must be born of water and the Spirit. We must be “born again.” When the Holy Spirit comes in our hearts it makes us new on the inside. You know the wind is there when you feel it. The Holy Spirit is like that. You can feel it. You can tell it has changed your life.

John 3:14-15 says, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

In these verses Jesus points back to the story in the Old Testament over a thousand years earlier. All those snakes in the wilderness would have freaked me out.

Numbers 21:4-9.

To understand the story of Jesus in John we need to understand what was happening to the Israelites with those poisonous snakes. Moses and the Israelites had left Mount Sinai and were on their long journey of circles in the desert trying to get to Canaan, which would be their home. The journey got long and was trying all their patience.

They began to grumble to God and Moses. They were saying things like, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” They even thought that being slaves would be better than being in the wilderness. At least being slaves they would have plenty of food and drink.

Before long all that grumbling encouraged God to allow snakes to be in their camp. Soon people were dying from poisonous snakebites. Then they started crying out to Moses, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the snakes from us.”

So Moses prayed and God answered his prayer. He did not answer the prayer by taking the snakes away. He answered the prayer by giving them a cure from death when they got bit. God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole in the middle of the camp. Then if you got bit by a snake you would just look at the snake and the poison would come out of you. Then the person that was bitten was restored to full health. Nowhere in the story does it say that God got rid of the snakes. All he did was give them a way to live with the snakes without dying.

Well, saying all this, what do these verses mean in John about this snake stuff? What was Jesus trying to tell us?

He was trying to tell them and us that day that he was going to be put up on the stick himself. Just like the Israelites had to look at the snake to be saved we have to believe in Jesus to be saved. Jesus had to go to the cross to save each one of us here today. The benefits of Jesus’ death are for everyone.

All sinners are invited to believe and trust in the uplifted one. Jesus doesn’t take the temptations away. He gave us a way to be healed from that sickness or poison. Jesus going to the stick or the cross is what make John 3:16 possible.

Romans 8:23 All have sinned

(John 3:16) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This verse is the most popular verse of the Bible. We see it lifted up at sports events of all kinds. It is called the golden text of the gospels. It is a super verse to just meditate on. It has also been called “the New Testament in miniature.”

Lets each one of us turn to it and read it again slowly and notice some of the words used in it.

God – it came from the top one
Loved – we are cared for
The world – all of us
Whoever believes – we just believe, anyone
Not Perish – we won’t go to hell
Eternal – forever
Life – we will go to heaven (reread John 3:16)

John 3:17 is a super verse too. It is often overlooked for being put right behind John 3:16. Jesus says in it, “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

It is good to know that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save it. He can save us. We are a part of the world he came to save.

Richard Foster says in Celebration of Discipline that at the heart of God is forgiveness and to give. Love, not anger, brought Jesus to the cross.

I read a poem in the ‘Standard Lesson Commentary’ written by Dora Greenwell that summarizes verses 16 and 17.

He did not come to judge the world,
He did not come to blame;
He did not only come to seek-
It was to save he came;
And when we call him Savior,
Then we call him his name.

The miniature New Testament, verse 16 and 17, is good news about God’s love in Jesus.

John 3:18-21, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

When I was in grade school, we had school desks that had tops that lifted up so you could put your books and junk inside. It was a two-room school. Some days when we did not want the teacher to see what we were doing, we would put the lids up and hide from her behind them. She would see the lid up for a while and know right away that we were up to no good.

Why do we try to hide? Because someone has deeds that they do not want to expose. Like the desk lid, we had deeds that we did not want to expose.

When you hear your children playing and then it gets quiet, then you wonder what they are up to.

As adults, when you have to look around to see who may be there before you make that comment, maybe that is something you should not be saying.

We all have things that we needed to hide from God at some time.

What is it that we did that we need to look to the cross for healing? In this season of Lent, it is a good time for us to take time and look into our own lives and see what we have in that dark corner.

Jesus makes it clear in the text today what we need to do. We need to look to the stick. The cross that Jesus was on. (point at the big cross on the wall in the front)

There is healing there for each one of us. Jesus told us that he will give healing like the Israelites were able to have though the snake for their bites. His healing is for our brokenness. Jesus’ saving power can make us whole.

Prayer- Dear Lord, help us be whole. Heal us from our sinfulness. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for giving us the gift of eternal life. Thank you for giving us these precious verses here in John. Thank you, Amen.

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