St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Sermon on John 3:14-21

Text: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

The word “love” is used in many ways in our conversations with others. We say that we love our spouse. We love our children. We even love certain types of food. Each type of love has a different shade of meaning. For instance, we don’t love certain types of food in the same way that we love our spouse. The word “love” is used in many different ways. There is another truth about our love. It is not always to the same degree at all times. There are days when we are more loving than others. Often our love is in response to the surroundings in which we find ourselves. This morning, we are going to look at another love, and that is the love of God. We shall see that GOD=S LOVE IS FOR ALL SINNERS. 1. It Is Revealed In His Son. 2. It Is Received By All Believers. 3. It Results In New Life Now And Forever.

The events of our text took place late at night. A man by the name of Nicodemus was meeting with Jesus secretly, because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was curious about Jesus and wanted to find out more about him. Yet, because of his position, he met with Jesus secretly.

Jesus wanted to teach Nicodemus the purpose for which he had come to the earth. Jesus referenced a familiar story from the Old Testament and drew parallels to himself. Jesus said in verses 14&15, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” In order to fully appreciate the parallels Jesus draws, it would be good for us to be reminded of the events to which Jesus refers. The Children of Israel were in the wilderness. Once again, they began to complain about their living conditions. So, God sent serpents among the people. Many were bitten and died. The people repented their sin and asked Moses to pray for them. In response to the prayer, God told Moses to make a serpent of brass and set it upon a pole. Then, if a person was bitten, all they had to do was to look at the serpent and they would be healed.

Jesus said that the exact thing would happen to him. He, too, would be lifted, not on a pole, but on a cross. Now, we who have been bitten by the fatal bite of sin can look back to him in faith, and we will be saved. Just as God provided the cure for the bite of the serpent, so God has also provided the cure for the effects of sin.

How did God do this? We find the answer in the familiar words of verse 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.” The motivating factor that caused God to sacrifice his only Son for us was his love. Here we can fully appreciate the difference between our love and God=s love. As was said earlier, our love is often based on reaction. If someone is nice to us, we are kindly disposed toward them. If they continue to be nice to us, we might even grow to love them. Often, there is a physical attraction that started us down the path of love.

However, can you imagine loving someone who wanted nothing to do with you, someone who did everything possible against you? Yet, that is exactly the kind of love that God showed to us, to the entire world. All people, by nature, are the enemies of God. Everything God wants us to do is what we don=t want to do. As a matter of fact, we refuse to do it. You and I were born into this condition. God, in his righteousness, could have left the world to its own devices and, at the end of time, condemned them to an eternity in hell. There was absolutely nothing loveable in any of us.

Yet, God chose to love us. He made a decision to love us. Look at the extent of his love! “He gave his one and only Son.” Can any of you with children imagine doing this? Perhaps, there is the slightest possibility that you might, though I really doubt it. Can you imagine sacrificing your child for someone who was your worst enemy, who did everything possible to make your life miserable? Yet, that is exactly what God did. God’s love moved him to sacrifice his only Son, so that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God=s love for us sinners is certainly revealed in his Son, Jesus, who allowed himself to be sacrificed in order that you and I would have eternal life.

God’s love is further revealed to us in verse 17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Here Jesus makes a very clear point. There is one of two ways to go. Either you believe in Jesus and are saved, or you refuse to believe in Jesus, and you are condemned. Again, we go back to the picture that Jesus used of the serpent in the wilderness. Moses’ words may not have made sense to some of the people who were bitten by the serpents. “Look at a statue of a serpent and I will be healed?” It is entirely possible that some of the people refused to look at the serpent and died. It took faith to believe that this was possible.

The same holds true regarding Jesus. It doesn’t necessarily make sense that, if you believe in Jesus as your Savior, that all your sins will be taken away. Some people even refuse to believe it. They think that they can earn their spot in heaven. Others refuse to believe that they are actually all that bad, and that God will overlook a few mistakes. However, Jesus makes it very clear, so that there is no misunderstanding. If you do not believe in him as your Savior, you will spend your eternity in hell. However, if you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you are saved. All your sins have been taken away and heaven is waiting for you. This faith, which receives all these benefits, is another example of God’s love because it is a gift from him. St. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:8&9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” God’s love for us sinners is revealed in the fact that all who believe in him have eternal life.

God’s love is further revealed in the new life that you and I enjoy now and will enjoy for all eternity. We read verses 19-21, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people 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 their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” Again, Jesus uses pictures to help us understand what he is saying. He begins by speaking of light that “has come into the world.” The Light that he is speaking of is himself. Earlier, in the first chapter of John, it says of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” (John 1:4) Jesus is the Light that came into the world to shine on our sin-darkened souls.

Jesus said that there are two different reactions to his shining in their lives. There are those who hate the Light and would rather stay in the darkness because, as Jesus said, “Their deeds were evil.” Others are glad to have the Light shine on them so that their deeds would be seen. Again, the picture is very clear. When are most evil deeds done? The thefts, assaults, and the like most often occur at night, so that no one can see them. A well-lit area helps to deter crime. Some people hate the Light, Jesus Christ, because they know what they have been doing is wrong. They don’t want to change what they have been doing. So, they hate the Light for exposing their deeds of darkness.

On the other hand, those who have had the Light, Jesus, shine in their hearts love the Light. They want to stay away from the deeds of darkness and do what God wants them to do. Jesus, the Light of the world, has shone in their hearts, bringing them from the darkness of sin and unbelief into the glorious light. Because the Christian has been enlightened, he will want to live differently than the rest of the world. This is all done out of thankfulness for all that God has done for him. As John would later write in his first Epistle, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) God’s love gives us the ability to live new lives, so that we no longer must bow under Satan’s temptations, but can say, “No! I don’t want to!” This new life that is free from the control of Satan is another gift from our loving God.

John is often referred to as the Apostle of love. In his Gospel, his three epistles, and his Revelation, he speaks more about God’s love for us and our resulting love for God than about every other writer. During the season of Lent, God’s love comes more into focus than any other time of the year, as we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Today and the rest of our lives, may we grow in our appreciation of the love that God has shown to us. “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.” Amen.