March 2018  
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March 11, 2018 Sermon

March 11, 2018 Lent 4 John 4:15-22                                                                                                             

A survey done in 2016, showed that nearly 40% of Americans fear snakes—of any kind, and yet, that same 40% don’t fear cruzing in a car 70+ miles per hour in four-lane traffic.                                                                                                                

There’s a story about a hotel housekeeper who practically destroyed a microwave with her mop because there was an artificial snake on top of it. Some of us think the only good snake is a dead snake. There are very few children’s bedtime stories that include snakes.  Not many snake stories give us a warm, fuzzy feeling.                                                                                          

Snakes, however, are very prominent in scripture and are the focal point of this hard-to-understand story from the Book of Numbers—the same story Jesus alludes to in his conversation with Nicodemus. What are we to make of all this?  In the ancient world people lived side-by-side with these creatures. Snakes were seen not just as the enemy but also as symbols of protection.  Egyptian pharaohs often wore a headpiece that displayed a hooded cobra. The snake was there to protect the pharaoh from his enemies.                      

It is truly ironic that the venom found in snakes is a source of medicine; thus the caduceus --two intertwined snakes, is the symbol used to represent the medical field. Anyone who has ever had a surgical procedure, which we consent to have done, know there will be hurt in order to have healing.                                                                                                                                       

The Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 difficult years. Every family had someone who died; even Moses lost his brother and sister. The people were very tired and they still didn’t have a land to call their own. They were complaining to Moses, which means they were complaining about God.  I’m not sure any of us would have reacted any differently.   

So they grumbled:  “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?”                        

So what does God do?   40 years to God is like a day-and-a-half. So God doesn’t tolerate their tantrum. He sends poisonous snakes—fiery serpents, to bite them, and as a result, a lot more people died, even some who’d kept their mouths shut.                

God’s people were dying because they were bitten by poisonous snakes. They could physically see the effects of the poison and as such they called out to God.  Now they were willing to do whatever God asked, simply for the chance to live.                                   

So the Israelites begged Moses—again, admitting their sin, and asked him to intervene to the LORD on their behalf.  I guess eating manna and sleeping on the ground isn’t such a big deal when you’ve got broods of snakes ready to strike. So Moses agreed--he wasn’t excited about the snakes, either.  But the real strange part of the story is the Lord has Moses construct a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. Everyone who is bitten by a snake was to look at the serpent, and they were healed. In other words, Moses made a replica of the very evil the people feared.                               

But Jesus says it is the nature of salvation.  Nicodemus knew the story of Moses and the snakes. I find it interesting, that Jesus used this story when Nicodemus had slithered in the dark of night, to see Him.  So Jesus speaks to him of light and darkness, death and life, sin and salvation, all woven together.  But less we forget, we treated Jesus like a hated snake.   We beat him, whipped him, and lifted him up high on a pole and as He was lifted up from earth toward heaven, his words became the anti-venom, the means of salvation even for those who killed him.  Like the Israelites looking up at the pole, we stand at the foot of the cross, looking up at Jesus.            

God always offers redemption, but redemption on His terms-- not ours. The people who do not believe in Jesus today do not realize that the poisoned snake of sin has bitten them.  The evidence of the poison is clear. We are all dying. Nothing in life comes easy. This world is constantly in turmoil. We grope around in darkness thinking we can save ourselves. We need the light of the world.  We need Jesus to shine through the darkness and help us see the need for the one true Savior. We need to see that sin kills. You and I confess our sins daily before our Lord seeking and imploring his grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Believing in Jesus and by His shed blood we will no longer stand condemned.                                                                                                                

God doesn’t think the way we do.  How many of us would give up our child, to be crucified on a cross?                                      

The only thing with which we are left is to accept the grace God provides us, leaving the why of it all to the One who knows better than we how redemption takes place.                                          

It is God’s will that none of us perish, but “have eternal life.” How God chooses to do that is God’s business. Let’s accept it with gratitude, even if we have to look the snake in the eye.

Lord, save us, sinful as we are. Forgive us our impatience and teach us to accept the mystery of redemption offered through your Son Jesus. Amen.