“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Back to Basics
The candlelight flickered with the slight night breeze. A man named Nicodemus had come to speak with Jesus privately to learn more about him. Nicodemus had been raised in the school of work-righteousness—the belief that people earn favor and blessing from God by what they do. We can relate to that. Like Nicodemus, each of us has a voice inside of us which insists that if we are going to be right with God, we ourselves need to make that happen. To our natural selves, it only makes sense. So like Nicodemus, we need Jesus to take us back to the basics.
Jesus used a story Nicodemus knew. There was a time in the Old Testament when the Israelites rebelled against God. Because of that rebellion, the Israelites faced death at the fangs of venomous snakes God had sent. The wages of their sin was death. Yet God also instructed Moses to make a snake of bronze and put it up on a pole with the promise that all who looked to it would not die. God’s people sinned. They deserved death. He gave them life. With faith kindled by God’s promise, they trusted and lived.
Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” We all have the venom of sin coursing through us, and it kills both body and soul. The wages of our sin is death. Yet God has given us all the antidote: not a bronze snake lifted up on a pole, but his Son lifted up on a cross to pay for the sins of the world. The good news Jesus gave to Nicodemus is the same news given to us in likely the most famous passage of the Bible: John 3:16, “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.”
Jesus takes us back to the basics. We are sinful. We face death. Jesus paid for our sins. Through faith in him, we have life. So, when you are weighed down by your guilt or start to think that you have to earn your way into God’s good graces, listen to the lesson Jesus gave Nicodemus. Go back to the basics. In Jesus, you have life now and forever.
Prayer: (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal – 304:5)
I, a sinner, come to you with a penitent confession. Savior, show me mercy, too; grant for all my sins remission. Let these words my soul relieve—Jesus sinners does receive. Amen.
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