THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF MARCH IN THE YEAR OF GRACE TWO THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN
We are familiar with Jesus’ comforting words in John 3:16 about God’s love and the believer’s eternal life. But, as my preacher Jeff Christian noted recently, we often read or quote verse 16 in total isolation, are surprised to discover that the verse has a context, and are shocked to realize what that context says. In fact, John 3:16 is the climactic center and high point of four supposed-to-be-inseparable verses (John 3:14- 17) that include the two sentences Jesus spoke immediately before and after it. Listen to what Jesus actually said, in words we so often overlook or ignore.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (v. 14-15).
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life (v. 16).
For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (v. 17).
Jesus’ introductory sentence (verses 14-15) calls attention to a story of judgment and grace told in Numbers 21 from the wilderness meanderings of the ancient Israelites. The people become ungrateful and grumble against God, who sends venomous snakes into their camp with predictable results: dead Israelites. The people repent and ask Moses to beg God to stop. God tells Moses to shape a snake from brass, mount it on a pole visible to the people, and announce that in the future anyone who suffers snakebite and looks at the brass snake will recover.