Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bethany Bullet - March 20, 2012

Have you ever felt snake bit? That period of life filled with misfortune or inability to succeed. But Jesus is a haven to the ostracized for all those who feel snake bit in life.

For the past few weeks our texts have involved water. But our text from Sunday (John 3:14-21) seems to be dealing with snakes.

CBS.com published the following headline on February 11, 2009- Woman Dies After Snakebite in Church.

Does that make you nervous? Anyone care to check under your seat? Are you a bit rattled? Now, I am not going to ask you to handle snakes this morning, but humanity has been dealing with snakes since the beginning.

Both our Old Testament Lesson and our Gospel lesson describe the same event. Salvation comes when one is lifted up.

It was in the wilderness, the people of Israel grumbled and complained, then rebelled. The sentence had been cast, the verdict was certain, punishment was on the way.

This time punishment came in the form of venomous snakes and many died. Contrition and repentance followed and then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put in up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” (Numbers 21:8) Their shelter… was a stick.

Our Gospel lesson comes from the words of Jesus to a Pharisee named Nicodemus who had come to Jesus at night. Going back a little bit in chapter 3 we see that Nicodemus was listening to Jesus, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:3-5 NLT)

And there is the H20. Our water connection is new birth in water and the Spirit. This new life comes to us when Jesus is lifted up, and it personally comes to us when water and word come together in Baptism and we are called a child of God.

But why did Jesus have to be lifted up?

Jesus continues his message to Nicodemus from our Gospel lesson, “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.” (John 3:14-15)

The truth is you have been snake bit; not by one that coils and strikes, but by one who contradicts, and lies.

It was in the garden, the serpents sly words enticed Eve. As she bit, she was bitten, and so too Adam and every one of their offspring since, have felt the venomous poison of the deceiver coursing through our veins.

To use a legal term, we have been remanded. To be remanded is to be kept in custody until a trial or to return to be sentenced in a court of law.

The Israelites were remanded when the grumbled and complained. They were sentenced to punishment.

You have also been remanded. Sin keeps you in custody. You have been sentenced to death because of your disobedience. Sin has sentenced you to separation from the savior. The venom of that first sin still courses through your veins and all too often you have given in to the serpent’s lies. We all have been snake bit and ostracized from God.

  • Is your life filled with misfortune?
  • Are you finding it hard to succeed?
  • Is the venom of sin destroying your body or desensitizing you to the evil of the world?
  • Do snakes surround you?
  • Are you feeling rattled?

In the immortal words of Doctor Indiana Jones, “Snakes? Why did it have to be snakes?”

Paul said it this way:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Jesus is a haven to ostracized, a refuge for the remanded, anti-venom for rebellion.

  • Jesus takes our condemnation upon himself.
  • Jesus is sentenced to die.
  • Jesus is remanded for our sins.

In the wilderness, the snakes came to condemn the people of their sin, but listen to the words of Jesus, “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.” (John 3:16-17)

As Jesus was lifted up, we have been given life. The shelter? A stick! Not just any stick, but the cross of Calvary. And when he burst forth from the tomb we were guaranteed new life forever with him. Now by water and word we have been born again and given refuge.

It might have been St. Patrick who banished the snakes from Ireland, but it was Jesus who crushed the head of the serpent and has banished sin from affecting those who have been born of water and the Spirit.

Jesus IS a haven for the ostracized a refuge for the remanded!

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

The anti-venom is yours, poured out in the blood of Jesus and coming to you again in bread and in wine as his body and blood is freely given to you, for you, to save you.

Jesus our haven comes to you today to bring you new life. When you feel remanded, remember that you have been set free, and, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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