Lent 4 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
March 14, 2021
Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21

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Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Remember what was like to be a young child trying to fall asleep in a dark room? Your imagination starts working overtime inventing monsters and bogeymen out of every shadow.  Every noise, every shadow, every gust of wind brings fresh terror. The older you get the more you learn to control your fear; you may no longer even need a nightlight, but before you go to bed you lock the doors and many of you have a loaded gun nearby.  Because there is great darkness in the world.

            John 3:19-20 (ESV) 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.[1]

            Darkness provides cover for evil.  Violent crime is more likely committed under the cover of darkness. Darkness provides concealment; it allows you to hide your sins.  Evil loves the darkness.  Evil loves concealing darkness and the darkness of ignorance of the Truth. 

            Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night; in the darkness.  Nicodemus is literally in the darkness, but also spiritually in the darkness.  This Pharisee, Nicodemus, senses there is something special about this Jesus fellow but Nicodemus is ignorant; he does not understand.  He wants to find out more, but he does not want anyone else to know what he is doing. 

            There in the darkness Jesus enlightens Nicodemus with His Word.  John 3:5-8 (ESV) 5 … “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”[2]

            Nicodemus still does not understand, John 3:9-15 (ESV) 9 … “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 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][1] 

                Jesus is giving Nicodemus deep Truth; eternal truth.  Being born again of water and the Spirit is Christian baptism which is not yet being practiced by Jesus’ followers.  Jesus tells the Pharisee that the Son of Man must be lifted up in order to give all who believe in Him eternal life.  Jesus is talking about the cross, but Nicodemus does not have that Truth yet.  He will know that Truth later and he will be there on that dark Friday with 75 pounds of spices to help Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus’ body for the tomb. 

            Jesus continues to pour out the light of the Truth on Nicodemus to push back the darkness of ignorance and unbelief.  John 3:16-17 (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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.[4]

            John 3:16 is called the Gospel in a nutshell.  It is likely the most memorized verse in the Bible.  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.[5] This is profound, eternal, enlightening Truth that Jesus is giving to Nicodemus.  It is good to memorize, but the danger with the Gospel in a nutshell is that you may become so familiar with it that you minimize it.  Instead of being an entry point or a handle to an overwhelming Truth it becomes a nutshell-sized truth.  You are tempted to make the Gospel a manageable truth that you can hold in your hand and control.  A truth so small you so you close it inside your fist, cover it up, ignore it, and continue to live in the darkness of your sin.  You hear John 3:16 and think, “Yeah, yeah…God loves me…I have eternal life…Jesus died for me…I heard this before…no big deal.  Not like it is going to change how I live.” 

            But it is a big deal.  It is the biggest deal.  It is life altering.  Almighty God…the creator of the universe…the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, gracious and merciful God, out of love, sent His Son to save you.  God’s chosen way to save you was to send His own Son to take on human flesh and suffer and die on the cross for you and to rise again from the dead.  The Lamb of God is sacrificed to take away the sin of the world.  What a strange way to save the world. 

In our Old Testament lesson God sends snakes to punish the children of Israel for complaining about being rescued out of Egypt and fed manna from heaven in the wilderness.  After the snakes come, the people repent and cry out for help, and God tells Moses to put a bronze snake on a pole and whoever is bitten should look at the bronze snake and they will live.  What a weird way to save people.  Why not just get rid of the snakes?  Why send snakes in the first place?  God’s ways are not your ways.

            God’s way of saving you is to send His only begotten Son to suffer and die in your place.  His way of saving you is to give you the Holy Spirit who enables you to believe that Jesus died and rose again for you.  God’s love for you is beyond your comprehension.  God washes you in the waters of baptism and seals you in His name to be His child.  You are born again; born from above through water and the Spirit.  God forgives you over and over through His Word, “I forgive you all your sins.”  God feeds you the very body and blood of His Son Jesus to give you forgiveness, salvation and eternal life.

            The Gospel in a nutshell is your portal to the eternal Truth of God.  It is an overwhelming Truth; an incomprehensible Truth; a cosmic Truth.  This Truth brings light into the darkness.  This Truth pierces the darkness in your life.  This Truth brings forgiveness and new life.  This Truth changes you.  This Truth breaks through the darkness of fear, tragedy, sickness, suffering and death with light from above.  You are a baptized child of the light, born again of water and the Spirit, living in a world of darkness.  Reject the darkness.  Live in the light of the Truth.  Do the Truth. Love God, love your neighbor.  Repent of your sins.  Walk in the light of Christ and continue what Jesus began.  Bring the light of the Gospel into the darkness.  Do the Truth. Amen. 

[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3][1]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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