Sermon Notes- March 18, 2012

4th Sunday in Lent– Year B

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

The lessons for this week are all interesting.  The Numbers passage is a pre-figuring of the cross also mentioned in the Gospel lesson.  The psalm is complimentary to the OT text, and proclaims the steadfast love of God. The Ephesians text will preach for sure–“saved by grace through faith.”  And you cannot overlook the Gospel lesson which includes that favorite verse-John 3:16. Luther called it the “The Gospel in miniature.”  I am personally planning to preach the Gospel lesson using the Ephesian text as an example.

  • The text from Numbers is a powerful story from the Exodus.  The trials of the desert wandering included poisonous snakes. The people ask for deliverance, and Moses prays.  God provides the solution.  A pole with a bronze replica of a poisonous serpent attached could be lifted up, and if those who were bitten looked at it, they would live.  There are some interesting parallels to ancient Egyptian serpent worship here.  Notice John 3:14.
  • I will use the Psalm as an act of worship, it retells the story of the Exodus and God’s faithfulness to Israel in a very poetic way.
  • The Ephesians text is sometimes subtitled “From Death to Life.”  It is one of the more definitive writings of Paul about how salvation by faith is a gift from God and how works are the result of God’s mercy not the cause.  Paul is restating the Good News of Jesus Christ for the Church.
  • The Gospel Lesson is always powerful.  I think it is important for the preacher to emphasize the context of John 3:16 within the full text.  So much of what society gets is a superficial reading of the the verse.  When you can see it in every sports venue on a sign, and big sports stars with it written under their eyes in smudge, the Church deserves a more complete exegesis of the verse.
  • With the image of the Numbers passage as the introduction, we get the idea that Jesus will be lifted up on a pole to bring life to those who believe.  It is important to unpack the concept of “eternal life”–too much of the Christian world thinks of eternal life as only having significance after death.  When Jesus speaks of eternity in the Gospels, he is ushering in a Kingdom of the here and now, and that which is to come.  I think v.17 is too often left out of the conversation of v.16.  Too often that key verse of the faith gets used for condemnatory purposes–while v. 17 says that is not why Jesus was sent into our midst.  There is certainly judgement in the lesson, but the main precept is that God saves–God’s steadfast love endures forever.  Those who choose to hide their evil deeds from the light are those who bring judgement on themselves.
  • There are plenty of sermon resources out there to help you with these lessons, here are a few I will be using:

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