“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 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.”
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. “
Today’s Gospel arguably contains the most well-known memory verse of Scripture. “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.”
Here the Apostle John tells the people that Jesus will deal with sin and save His people. Many years prior the people had grumbled against God in the wilderness and had been plagued by vipers which bit and killed many people. The people repented and came to Moses asking him to intercede for them with God.
“Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you. Intercede with the LORD so He will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses interceded for the people. (Numbers 21:7)
Moses made a bronze snake as God had commanded and when the people were bitten, they looked to it and were saved. Notice how God did not remove the snakes, but called on his people to look to Him and make an act of faith towards Him. Sin is always all around us and like a snake bite, sin injects venom into our lives and poisons us. But we must make an act of faith and look to Jesus the Crucified one and acknowledge that our sins are forgiven because Jesus is the saviour of the world.
Two things for us to do today. The first is to acknowledge our grumbling against God. In the midst of the pandemic we can easily become disillusioned and lose hope. Our daily activities have been so badly disrupted, and we are missing out on so much that we had considered to be normal. It is true that we have lots to complain about, it is true that we are suffering, but accusing God of not caring and accusing God of unjustly punishing the world, being ungrateful for life, is not a fitting response.
We have a very individualistic outlook on life – we consider our spiritual journey to be all about our own choices and our own salvation. It is true that if you were the only person in the world Jesus would have died for you, it is true that Jesus is a personal saviour – but you are not the only person in the world. Despite Jesus loving you personally we are not simply individuals, we are part of a greater humanity and our lives are inextricably linked with the lives of others. The sin of the world impacts on each one of us and we are called to bring that sin before God, not just our own individual lives but the life of the world. As Christians we have a corporate responsibility. The Pandemic is teaching us this. We are learning that everyone needs to wear a mask and sanitise and get vaccinated and this is the only way, collective, corporate action is the only way to overcome. You cannot just save yourself. A lesson worth learning – we need to reorder our collective lives not just our individual lives. And we do that, not by condemning others, but by looking to God and doing what is required and acting in faith; that God so loved the world, and that all should be saved, all can be saved, and all will be saved – by looking to Christ. We have to be the Moses here – holding up the truth of the saving power of the cross for all to see and encouraging others to look to the cross and be saved. Unless we recognise the sinful nature of humanity and turn to God, the venomous nature of sin will continue to affect us.
Secondly, we need to remember that Jesus came into the world to save the world not to judge it. We can very easily become judgemental about the way that politicians and big business do things we can very easily be “against” the things that people do, criticising and condemning the actions of others. But, we are not called to be judgemental, we are called to highlight the sinful actions of the world, we are called to speak out against injustice and unrighteousness, but we are not just holding up the sins of the world for them to see. We are also holding up the saviour of the world for all to see. In the cross we hold up the sin and the saviour, and the saviour is overcoming the sin. As Isaiah 48 : 18 says “Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.” let us look to the command to look to Jesus the Christ!
Jesus on the cross took on the sins of the world. It is as if he held sin in the one hand and righteousness in the other and lifted his hands to God, and received the power from God to bridge the divide between the two and heal the world. The task of standing in the gap between sin and righteousness and interceding for the world is the way of the cross. And it is painful and it can be suffocating, but when we join with Christ and act against unrighteousness and speak and act against sin and speak out for salvation by faith, then the world can be saved. Faith must lead to action.
If we are to look to Jesus as Saviour, then we must do what he says not just look at what he has done.
We have not been saved to condemn the world but to in Christ and with Christ and through Christ bring salvation to it.
Let us pray:
Give us the courage today oh lord to speak out against sin. Give us the courage today or lord to point the world to you for salvation. You are the only saviour, and only when we live as you have taught, when we do what you require, can salvation be experienced by the world. Teach us to repent and look to you and honour you and obey your commands that all the world may live in that peace which you have won for us. In the Name of the crucified and risen Christ who is ascended on high to live and reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.