Jesus Must be Lifted Up on the Cross
These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.
God’s Word for This Week
A drowning man will not complain about the size of the boat that comes to rescue him. Yet today’s first lesson shows us people complaining not long after God had freed them from slavery in Egypt. Note in each lesson how God shows his heart of grace―undeserved love that rescues sinners.
FIRST LESSON – Numbers 21:4-9
Which flaws of human nature led to the painful, in some cases deadly, lesson of venomous snakes?
The snakes came when people got impatient, complained, and were not thankful. They even criticized free daily food. It started with lack of trust and love for God. (“You brought us… to die in the desert.”)
God could have saved the people without having them look at something. What did he want to teach them (and us) by having them look at the snake on a pole?
By putting the snake on the pole, God said: “trust me”. God found a way to heal their soul and body at the same time. Their main problem was spiritual—lack of trust—and God taught them to trust his promise. Sure enough, anyone bitten who looked at the bronze snake lived.
Today we don’t look at a snake on a pole to save us. Where does God direct us to look?
God has us look at his Son in baptism’s waters, and in his body and blood, united with bread and wine in his supper.
SECOND LESSON – Ephesians 2:4-10
Find five different words or phrases in this precious section which highlight God’s goodness.
Five key phrases which emphasize God’s goodness: his great love for us, who is rich in mercy, riches of his grace, his kindness to us, it is the gift of God.
Find four different words or phrases Paul uses to emphasize that no part of the rescue is our doing.
Four key phrases, emphasizing that we cannot save ourselves at all: “We were dead in transgressions,” “not from yourselves,” “not by works,” and “no one can boast.”
If our good works have no part in paying for our eternal life, why do we still do good works? (See 2:10.)
Good works result when people realize the great gift God has given them. A living fruit tree will naturally bear fruit; so also, a person who realizes he has received eternal life at the cost of God’s own precious blood will then respond to that love with love for God and others. The reason God created us was to produce fruits of faith and love.
GOSPEL – John 3:14-21
How is Jesus like the bronze snake of today’s first lesson?
Both the snake and Jesus were lifted up. Both were lifted up so many could look, see the solution promised by God, and be saved. Both required no payment or effort. Instead, both called dying people to look with trust to the only savior for their problem.
What is the criterion for God’s judgment? When does this judgment take place?
Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish. God’s criterion is that you trust in Jesus. This judgment is already valid, not just a future “will be so,” but already “is condemned.” Believers already cross over from death to life (John 5:24).