Lent 2 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 8, 2020
Genesis 12:1-9, Romans 4:1-8, 13-17, John 3:1-17

 

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itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
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It is a secret meeting in the dark.  One man is an important, respected religious leader, the other a homeless, travelling teacher from up north.  But it is the one who is a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus who is sneaking around to meet the mysterious rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth.  Nicodemus has heard about the miracles Jesus has done.  He wants to learn more about this man who has the Lord with Him.  Except Nicodemus does not understand.  God is not with Jesus.  Jesus is God with us.  And at this secret meeting in the dark, Jesus gives Nicodemus some mind-blowing teachings.

Jesus introduces the teachings with amen, amen which we translate as truly, truly. This double use of the word is an indication that Jesus is going to say something important.  John 3:3 (ESV) 3 … “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[1] John 3:5 (ESV) 5 … “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.[2]

Nicodemus is confused about being born again and being born of water and the spirit.  Jesus is teaching that there are two births; your physical birth and your spiritual birth.  He is teaching that spiritual birth comes with water and the spirit in Holy Baptism even though He has not yet instituted baptism.  Jesus is giving Nicodemus deep teachings about the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit.

Nicodemus does not understand and Jesus continues.  John 3:11-15 (ESV)  11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 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.” [3]

This is deep, significant teaching from Jesus to Nicodemus and to us.  Today, let’s focus on verses 14 and 15.  John 3:14-15 (ESV) 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.” [4]

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness…what is that about?  This brings us back to the book of Numbers chapter 21.  The Israelites are in the desert and they are complaining against God and Moses, Numbers 21:5 (ESV) 5 … “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”[5]

God is miraculously providing food for hundreds of thousands of people in the wilderness.  He is giving them manna from heaven, but like too many of God’s gifts the people grow weary of them and they complain.  And so Lord sends fiery serpents among the people and the snakes bite the people and many die.  Rebuked by the snakes, the Israelites repent and cry out to Moses, “Numbers 21:7 (ESV) 7 …“We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.[6]  It is easy to grow weary of things being same old, same old, until something bad happens and you long for everything to just return to normal.

Moses prays to the Lord, Numbers 21:8-9 (ESV) 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. [7]  The source of death is a fiery serpent.  The source of life is a fiery serpent on a pole.

John 3:14-15 (ESV) 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.”[8]

            Jesus on the cross is sin on the cross.  Your sin on the cross.  My sin on the cross.  All your anger and bitterness, all your lust and depravity, all your greed and selfishness, all your rebellion and disobedience, it is all there on the cross.  You have a problem with sin.  Sin bites you again and again and again. Jesus on the cross is your source of healing.  Look to Jesus on the cross and you will have eternal life.

Jesus is giving Nicodemus some very profound truth here.  Nicodemus thinks God is with Jesus but Jesus is communicating that He is God and He is telling Nicodemus about what is going to happen.  Jesus, the Son of Man, is going to be lifted up like the serpent on a pole.  And whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.  The serpent was the cause of death and the source of life.  What is the cause of death for us?  What is the cause of physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death?  It is sin.  Romans 6:23 (ESV) 23 For the wages of sin is death…” [9]  Sin is the problem.  Sin is what keeps biting us and bringing us death.  Jesus on the cross is the solution.  But if the problem is sin, how is Jesus like the serpent on the pole?  Jesus on the cross is sin.  Not His sin, but your sin.  As St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.[10]

Jesus on the cross is sin on the cross.  Your sin on the cross.  My sin on the cross.  All your anger and bitterness, all your lust and depravity, all your greed and selfishness, all your rebellion and disobedience, it is all there on the cross.  You have a problem with sin.  Sin bites you again and again and again. Jesus on the cross is your source of healing.  Look to Jesus on the cross and you will have eternal life.

John 3:16 (ESV) 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.[11]

Nicodemus sneaks out at night to try to find out more about this Jesus.  And Jesus gives him more than he can comprehend.  Jesus lifted up on the cross is the source of healing, forgiveness, and eternal life.  We don’t know how much Nicodemus understood of what Jesus taught him, but we do know that Nicodemus was at the cross after Jesus died to take care of Jesus’ body along with Joseph of Arimathea.  Together they wrapped Jesus up with burial spices and laid Him in the tomb.

Your sin died and is buried in that tomb.  The penalty is paid.  Jesus rests in the tomb over the Sabbath day and then, leaving your sin in the tomb, righteousness, purity and holiness rises from the dead on Sunday morning to show complete destruction of sin and death.  In Christ you have eternal life.  On the last day you will rise from the grave and leave sin behind forever.  Sin is the cause of death, Jesus on the cross is the source of eternal life.  Look to Jesus. Amen

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[8]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[9]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[10]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[11]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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