4th Sunday of Lent 18.3.12. John 3.14-21

7 03 2012

Look and Live

This brief passage looks both backward and forwards. Backwards to Moses and forwards to the crucifixion. It speaks of  judgement and healing.  Most profoundly, it teaches us where to look.

John 3.14-21

‘And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

Reflections and Questions

‘Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” v14.  The east window at All Saints Loughborough (where I was rector from1994-2006) has an image of this event in the lowest of the central lights, immediately under the crucifixion. In the Moses story (Numbers 21.4-9  see below) poisonous snakes lost their power when the people looked at the brass snake which Moses held high.

What loses its power when we look at the cross of Jesus?   

‘so’ v16. At first sight it reads as if John is saying that God loved the world so very much that…  . However, we might read this ‘so’ not as a word of intensity but as one of method. That is, as meaning, ‘this is the way God loved the world…’ 

What matters to you: the way God showed his love or the intensity of that love?  Can the two be distinguished?

‘this is the judgement, that light has come into the world’ v19  Judgement is literally crisis. It is also exposure, illumination and enlightenment.  This understanding goes back to the early verses of John and the faith that unquenchable light has come to the world, light that will reveal and judge, light that will also heal and save.

What sort of light is this?

‘those who do what is true’ v21  This lovely phrase gives the lie to the idea that the truth is a set of abstract propositions.  It suggests the idea of a line which is ‘true because straight’. This is truth as honesty and integrity.

How can you get the idea of ‘doing what is true’ across?

Vital Background Reading

Numbers 21.4-9

4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ 6Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. 8And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ 9So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

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