Posted by: mikebackup | March 16, 2012

Light to the world

John 3.14-21

12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And 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.’

Are you a twitterer? If you have no idea what ‘twitter’ is, or are rather confused about its mention and use in the media, it’s a means of communication. Using just 140 characters (about 27 words) of text it has become an incredibly powerful way that people talk to the world. The Bible has about 774,746 words so you’re not going to fit it into a tweet!!

However, in John 3.16, we do have the Gospel in a tweet – 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 – 27 words and 131 characters! It is not the gesture of giving that indicates depth of love, but the value to us of what we give. Here, God has given the best he has – the son to show the way.

That’s just the beginning though. The greatest act of love has been given, but it has to be received. To do that, we have to experience a deep understanding of John 3.16. Jesus speaks of how a journey of faith brings us to understanding and acceptance. If I twittered that verse, those that are not Christian wouldn’t get it at all. Being told something is not at all the same as experiencing something.

To understand this a little more we have to go to the start of chapter 3. The verses we’ve heard so far are part of a conversation that Jesus is having with Nicodemus a Pharisee, teacher and leader of the Jews.

1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ 3Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ 4Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ 5Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ 9Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ 10Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 ‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.

Nicodemus is very interested in Jesus and in many ways he represents anyone that’s looking for faith. Jesus is impressive, but in what way has he come from God? Jesus’ initial reply is one that speaks of journey and commitment. We must respond to the Spirit of God, which Jesus likens to the wind, you know it’s there but you can’t pinpoint it, all you know is that you’re being called to know God. Jesus speaks also of baptism as part of that response to God’s Spirit. Baptism is more than just about water; any baptism is about baptism of the heart. That’s the point when at a personal level the acceptance of God’s saving grace is recognised, something Jesus speaks about in verse 14. Jesus recalls Numbers 21.

5 The 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.” 6 Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7 The 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. 8 And 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.” 9 So 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.

It’s also worth mentioning Isaiah 52.13.

13 See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.

Jesus was lifted up on the cross. When we look up and accept that act of love we too are saved.

We might hear the words of verse 16 time and time again as part of that committed journey to acceptance and over time we will begin to know and experience what Jesus means in an increasingly profound way.

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

The deeper our experience of this verse, the deeper our faith and relationship with God becomes.

Jesus then concludes with a brief insight into what faith and verse 16 is about. God is about love not condemnation, and is a bright light of hope in the darkness.

Those that have experienced God will step into that light and want to show it to the world. Those that want to keep hold of their evil ways will hide away in the shadows.

Life and faith are hard and at times we all fall back into the shadows, but 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. God wants us and though we stumble and fall, God is always there to not only to pick us up but to transform us into his likeness, a bright light of hope to the world.

Prayers

Shining and bright, or tarnished and dirty,
clear and sharp, or dusty and faded,
we look into the mirror of our own lives;
we look into the mirror of our world,
and we see your pain, your brokenness,
we see your frustration, your despair,
and we are sorry;
sorry for the things we have done which have hurt others;
sorry for the things we have done that have hurt ourselves,

Shining and bright, or tarnished and dirty,
clear and sharp, or dusty and faded,
we look into the mirror of our own lives,
we look into the mirror of our world,
and we see your tenderness, your forgiveness.
We see your hope, your celebration,
and we are transformed:
transformed by the kiss of your love,
transformed by the beauty of your smile.
Amen.

These intercessions are based on the things that the Israelites grumbled about in the wilderness – things that maybe we take for granted but which many people don’t have. These are intertwined with the familiar words from John’s Gospel that tell us of God’s love for the whole world and God’s desire that all may have life.

God who journeys with us,
we pause on our journey of life
to think about those whose journeys
are painful and difficult…

…people who don’t have enough food:
for God so loved the world;

…people who don’t have access to clean water:
for God so loved the world;

…people who are ill:
for God so loved the world;

…people who mourn the loss of loved ones:
for God so loved the world;

…people who experience the darkness of depression:
for God so loved the world;

…people who suffer from low self-image and worth.
For God so loved the world
that he sent his only Son
so that none should perish
but that all may know God
and all may have life.
Amen.


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