4th Sunday in Lent (Series B)

March 11, 2017icon-download-pdf-wp

Gospel: John 3:14-21
Epistle: Eph. 2:1-10
Lesson: Num. 21:4-9
Psalm: Psalm 107:1-9

CLB Commentary – Rev. Bill Helland

Our text is our Lord’s response to Nicodemus’ question back in 3:4 and a follow-up question in 3:9. Nicodemus was totally stumped when it came to grasping the mystery of salvation through faith in Christ – also known as “being born again.”

Every Sunday we preach to “Nicodemuses” – people who are asking in their heads, if not out loud, “How can this be?” People will say things like, “It doesn’t make sense!”

And our reply ought to be, “Exactly! The grace of God does not make sense. How he brings his salvation into the heart of a humble, repentant believer NEVER makes sense! It’s a wonderful mystery!”

Our text is filled with easily identifiable passages of law and grace. The law speaks to a number of things:

1) Our problem with inherited sin.

Christ’s reference to Moses, lifting up the snake in the desert, refers back to a historical event that was a consequence of the sins of Israel. (Numbers 21:4-9) The only way the people could be saved from God’s judgment was to look at the bronze snake. It didn’t make sense! But what an easy thing to do for salvation!

Still today, if people want life, they have to be willing to recognize, and admit to, their sin problem; and agree, by faith, that by simply looking at Him who was lifted high on a cross, to spare us the wrath of God’s judgment against sin, we have life! It’s that easy! Though it makes no sense.

2) Our problem with unbelief.

There’s a little (if not a lot) of Nicodemus in our listeners, and that includes us proclaimers of the Word as well. We will want to urge our people to do as Nicodemus needed to do if he was going to find life – let it go. Let go of unbelief. Pray for faith to believe. And as Paul wrote in Romans 10:17, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Who knows who will come to faith in Christ after hearing you proclaim this message?

3) Our problem of rebellion and acts of sin.

Jesus did not mince words in verse 19-21, and may God grant us boldness to proclaim the law here as well. Satan tries to condemn us pastors by pointing out the obvious – that we love darkness too, if we’re going to be absolutely honest. We, as much as our listeners, need to admit that it is the default attitude we were born with. But again, quoting Paul, this time from Romans 7; Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! (24b,25) On account of Christ, we can preach sermons that we need as much as our listeners. As we warn the rebellious teenager, slouched down in the back row of our sanctuary, that loving darkness means we hate the light, we are reminding ourselves of the same truth. We need law and grace as much as them!

So after all this we apply the healing balm of God’s grace, as heard in verses 16-18:
1) Simply through faith in Jesus Christ, we will NOT perish! How can it be? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

2) God did not send His Son to condemn the world but to save it. How can it be? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

3) He who believes is not condemned! How can it be? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

May you and your listeners be greatly blessed by the truths of this text and may many be born again as a result of hearing it!

Fifth Sunday in Lent
Third Sunday in Lent