As I’ve begun this year’s 40 Days of Jesus reading for Lent, it’s been fun to begin with some of the most famous passages in the New Testament. The Gospel of John begins with that well known “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” and moved right forward to the first verse many of us memorized: “For God so loved the word that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Sometimes it’s a challenge to see new things in a book you’ve read so many times. But especially surrounding that well-known verse in chapter 3, I love sitting back and reminding myself of what it really means in context.
A few years ago we read John in church and went back and read the account of Moses and the Israelites that chapter 3 is referring to. The story is from when God had sent poisonous snakes into the camp as punishment, and the people were dying. They cried out to Moses for deliverance, and he put a bronze snake on a staff. “God will save you,” he told the people, “if you just look upon this staff and believe it.”
|From Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel, we see a scene with the brazen serpent or Nehushtan|
As many as looked, were saved.
But not all looked. Many would rather die in their bitterness and anger toward God, or calling out to false idols, than to trust Him. To humble themselves before Him.
This is what Jesus said He was. Salvation to all who look and believe. So simple–so difficult for stubborn humanity to accept.
But we’re already bitten by that snake of sin. We’re already dying. It isn’t that He’s condemning us if we don’t accept Him–it’s that nature will simply take it’s course. The ball’s in our court. He already came and died and rose again for us. All we need to do is believe . . . but if we don’t, then that poison of sin will overtake us. We’ll die.
This is the simplicity and the complexity of the salvation story. Striking, every time we read it.
If you’ve been reading along, has anything from the first four chapters of John jumped out at you?