Summary: This sermon pulls together the "bronze serpent" event in Numbers with John 3:14-21. Jesus is the object that is tangable. Other world religions offered in our pluralistic culture Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism offer ladders to God... Jesus is the lad
In Jesus Holy Name March 8, 2009
Lent II John 3:14,15,17 Redeemer
“Salvation Has an Object”
This morning we have before us one of the most famous bible verses in the bible. It is well known. I would guess that every Christian has even memorized it…”For God so loved the world….that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It is an important verse….but it doesn’t say enough.
This famous verse is found in the middle of a discussion with Nicodemus, a Jewish theologian. Jesus has asked Nicodemus to remember an event from the wilderness journeys of the children of Israel under the leadership of Moses.
If you watch the movie the Ten Commandments, with Charlton Heston in the role of Moses you’ll remember that the children of Israel were set free from slavery in Egypt after a number of plagues attacked the validity and power of Egyptian gods. The children of Israel left Egypt in a joyous parade, loaded down with gifts of gold, animals and precious goods. They came to the Red Sea when a cloud of dust told them Pharaoh had changed his mind… his military might, horse and chariot army were in hot pursuit.
God rescued them… Moses raises he hands and the sea parted. They walked across on dry land. When the Egyptians followed, the seas swallowed them. At Mt. Sinai worshiped God and received the Ten Commandments. After leaving Mt. Sinai they traveled like nomads in the desert. For 40 years they traveled from oasis to oasis, their shoes never wore out, they had manna every day and God provided water from a rock. But as people are wont to do…. They “became impatient” on the way to the Promised land. “They spoke against God and against Moses,” saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! We detest this miserable food (manna)! Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them and many Israelites died. The people came crying to Moses… “We have sinned... Ask God to take away the snakes.”
God told Moses to make a Bronze snake and put it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten can look at the pole and live. And it was so.
Now, don’t ask me how this worked. I have no idea. Moses simply sees it as another “miracle of God.” No different than the crossing of the sea. No different than fresh water flowing from a rock. No different than manna for food every day. The point? God acted in love to save his people from the poison which resulted in death. God said look up and live.
The bite of sin is death. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Rome. “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death came to all (people) because all have sinned.” Our acts of disobedience bring death. We know it to be true. No one is righteous. No not one of us.
Jesus looks at Nicodemus and said: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up…so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.”
What exactly does it mean to believe? Belief has an object. The culture would like to detach belief from an object….what counts is that you have believing feelings.
Example: I have faith that a chair will hold me. The object of my faith is the chair. Let me tell you a story about a home visit I had with a Senior Citizen who, because of failing health had to use a “walker/chair”. You know the kind. They have wheels, so you can hold on to the handles for extra support but have mobility. There are little hand brakes you can use to slow this mobile chair down if it is moving too fast. The “walker/chair” also has a seat so that the person can sit down.
While visiting the individual the chair was always at their side. They knew the chair would hold them. On one visit they were standing in front of their chair, holding in one hand a cup of coffee and something in the other hand. They turned to see if the chair was right behind them. It was. When the individual went to sit down the chair moved and they fell flat on their back, and the coffee flew. After helping the individual to their feet they said… “I knew the chair would hold me. I knew it was right behind me, but I forgot to grab the chair with my hand.”
Jesus has offered himself as the “way of salvation”. His death on the cross would bring forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life to those who would grab hold of Him. Hebrews 9:27 states: “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.” Jesus was telling Nicodemus that He must be the object of belief.