Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B

Inspired by John 3:14-21 

“And just 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. 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. 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.” John 3:14-17 (NRSV) 

John 3:16 is probably the most quoted verse of the entire bible, for good reason. That verse provides the most vital information there is about God the Father and his Son Jesus. God the Father’s love and concern for the world was so great that he gave his only Son, who willingly died in order for humankind to have a way to gain eternal life through him.

But while that verse is usually quoted by itself, the verses around it also provide vital information. The story of Moses that’s mentioned involves people willfully sinning against God, and God providing a way for them to be spared death for their sin. We must understand that we are being compared to those who willfully sinned against God. We got ourselves into this mess, and we deserve death for our sins, but God has sent us his Son to spare us from the consequences of our own actions. Christ’s salvation is not optional; we need him.

At the same time, while Christ reveals our need for a Savior, he doesn’t condemn us for our sin. He didn’t come pointing an accusing finger; he came to provide us a gateway to his Father in heaven, to cleanse us from our sin and prepare a place for us in the kingdom of God.

We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Those of us who recognize Christ as that Savior must proclaim the good news of salvation to those who have not yet heard or accepted it. Christ did not come to condemn the world, and neither should we, as we all need to look to the Son of Man who was lifted up for our sake.

Let us pray. Compassionate God, you sent your Son to die for us while we were yet sinners. Enable us to show the same compassion to the rest of humanity that you have shown to us, that we may reflect your loving intentions. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.