Summary: A sermon for the 4th Sunday in Lent
4th Sunday in Lent
John 3 :14-21
"Look, God loves you"
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up,
15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
18 He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21 But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.RSV
A visitor to Ystad Sweden tells of the little church located there. It is not a particularly beautiful church, and is exceptional in no way except that when you go inside you notice there is a crucifix hanging on the wall opposite the pulpit. The figure of our Lord is life-sized and life-like even to the use of real hair mangled beneath a crown of thorns.
How did this unusual crucifix happen to be in a Swedish Lutheran church?
Well, it seems that in the early 1700’s the King of Sweden paid an unexpected visit to the church. When the pastor saw the king in attendance he was over-whelmed. He ignored the text for that Sunday, and replaced it with an oratorical outburst of tribute and praise for the king.
Soon afterward the church received the crucifix from the king. With it came this command: "Hang this within the church so that whoever stands in the pulpit will be reminded of his proper subject."
As we are drawing nearer and nearer to the week of passion, our eyes turn more and more to the old rugged cross, to the place of death, to the cross upon that hill top. We see in our lesson this morning from John’s gospel, a summary for the cross. John is giving us in this lesson, the reason why Jesus died. The reason why the king of Sweden thought that the proper subject of any preacher is the death and resurrection of Jesus.
When we look at the cross of Calvary, we see death, we see pain, we see suffering, but if we can look beyond that, look beyond the physical realities of the cross, what do we see. We see the love of God.
John’ says in the most popular of all Bible verses, John 3:16, "For God so loved the world." As we look at the old rugged cross, as we see it coming over the horizon this season of Lent, as we begin to hear the sounds of the hammer pounding the nails, into the hands of Jesus, as we hear the cry of pain and suffering, we can see that beyond all of that, the purpose of the cross was love.
God so loved us that he had his only son killed on a cross so that we might be set free from our bondage to sin. The cross of Calvary, the old rugged cross, is a symbol of pain, of suffering, but at the same time it is a symbol of freedom, it is a liberating symbol for us, because through the cross of Calvary we are set free from the bonds of sin, we are set free from the chains of death, we are set free to be with God for eternity.
As the words to that famous hymn says:
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
God did this because he loves us.He did this because God loves those whom he creates. God did this because he could not bear to see us suffer to see us separated from him any longer.
He knew we could not and can not bridge, the gulf ,that lies between us and him, so God build that bridge for us. And the material he used in construction that bridge was a tree, a tree shaped into a form of a cross. And it was through the cross that God built a means, an avenue, a roadway for us to travel to him.