God loved the world this way / John 3:1-17 / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday March 8th 2020 / Season Of Lent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Text: John 3:11-17
Theme: “God loved the world this way”
Intr – I’d like to invite you to think of a loved one, a person very close to your heart. Someone you think that loves you back as well. It can be any of the different types of love we experience - spouse, date, family, or a friend. Think of them saying repeatedly to you: “I love you so much!” I’m sure you’ll be very happy about that, no doubt. We all love to be loved.
Now think of the situation in which during months, even years, that’s all you get. You hear “I love you so much”, or “my love for you is so intense!”, but you just can’t see that love in action. No action, no gifts, no signs… It’s just an intense love that never reveals itself the way in which it exists. It is intense, and that’s it, you should be content with that.
In John 3, we see Jesus declaring God’s love for the world. There are different translations of it throughout history, and most of them express the intensity of God’s love. “God so loved the world that...” “For God had such love”, “For God loved the world so much that...”; “this is how much God loved the world...” The most common translation has a “so” there, focusing on that intensity of God’s love. There’s no problem with that. We know even from the wider biblical context that God’s love is immense and immeasurable.
However a seminary professor called my attention many years ago to the fact that when we look the Greek we see that the verse begins with “outws”. This is a connector in Greek that allows you to translate it as: “This way”, or “thus”. Then the reading of the verse would be:“God loved the world this way”. Many English versions translate this verse so, and even Martin Luther used that meaning in his translation into German. God loved the world this way.
That gives us an even wider perspective of what Jesus is teaching us here. God not only so loved the world, but He loved the world this way: He gave his only Son. God shows His love in a visible and concrete way. Word and action.
In the Gospel we see a reference to Numbers chapter 21, where we learn about the episode of the fiery serpents in the desert. The people of God were complaining about their bad luck there, and how they were longing to go back…to slavery. That’s correct. They mention the food, the shelter, etc… But in the end, they think they were happier as slaves fed by the Egyptians that being a free people fed by the Lord, even having food coming from the sky, the Manah.
I don’t think we can call them stupid that quickly though. We ourselves, being free in Christ, and receiving food for our souls directly from Him, sometimes do the same. We are free to serve, to learn, to grow to witness. Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon for us to be going back to the slavery of daily life, being fed by different hands, and some of them very dangerous to our spiritual life. We relinquish our freedom in Christ to be pushed back into our fleshly desires.
Back to the desert, there was a punishment for the people: fiery serpents. But when there is repentance, there is deliverance. What was the deliverance God provided? A bronze serpent lifted up in a pole. Look to it and you’ll live. Notice that they shouldn’t look to Moses, or to Aaron. They shouldn’t look to any of the leaders, not even should they look above to the sky. God would save them this way: if you look to where He has commanded. It is not that the inanimate bronze serpent has power itself. It’s the Word from the Lord that accomplishes forgiveness and salvation.
As we flip back to the Gospel for today we get it: God loved the world this way: Christ. He gave His only son so that when you believe Him, you have eternal life. There is no other way.
_Your Church cannot save you;
_You pastor cannot save you;
_Your self-effort cannot save you (Epistle);
_The way you feel towards God cannot save you;
_The opinion of the most renowned theologians of all time cannot save you;
_In case we Lutherans sometimes come to forget it, Martin Luther can’t save you;
_Even your religious rites, your good works, your good intentions can’t do that;
_And just if it is not clear enough yet, “Believing” in general terms can’t save us. The general notion of “it is important to have faith” is to vague to lead us to the right place.
There is no place to which you can’t look to in order to be saved – except this way. God loved the world in a very intense way. Nevertheless, talking about intensity may sometimes not enough. So we need also to have in mind that He loved the world this way: Christ.
We can’t do anything about it. We were dead in our sins. One cannot do anything when one is dead. One can’t respond, or ask for faith. We are dead. Dead dead. Faith is a gift, from God. He comes to you and me and saves us, breathes life into our souls. Then we respond in faith to His calling, connected to Him by faith in Christ. God saves us this way: in Christ, by faith, independently of works. There’s no boasting about being a child of God. There’s gratitude and praise, for He has showed us His love.
The same love we will show to our neighbours. Works can’t save you, but that doesn’t mean they are worthless. Faith saves alone, but faith is never alone.A living faith is always followed by living attitudes that share God’s intense love in Christ to all the World; to a world that lies in the darkness, as Jesus states in John 3, and needs the light. 
God has also provided a visible sign of His salvation for us today. When we look at it, when we participate in it in true repentance and true faith, we receive salvation; it is his Holy Supper. Christ in us, under the bread and the wine. God loved the world this way: in His Only Son. And Jesus gives Himself to us in the Sacrament. There, we see, receive and taste the way God loved us: Christ.
Still, we need to keep in mind that whereas this is absolutely biblical, and therefore true, is still something illogical, nor acceptable from the rational standpoint. Even recently there was this lady down the border who affirmed that “hearing about Jesus is mental illness”. I hope she has already repented from that. And she’ll be forgiven. But that’s what the Gospel of Hope in this way – Christ – is for our minds. Complete craziness, something insane. Can you think of yourself at Victoria Park, or in a packed University auditorium, or in a “coexist” event, or in any public space filled with different views standing up and saying. “Yes, God loves everyone. He loves everyone this way: Christ”. This would be deemed to be naïve, illogical, intolerant, and so on. It is simply not logical for the spirit of the time. We can rely on what is theological though. Because many things we see, read, and scroll over are logical. But that doesn’t mean they are theological.
We know that still the truth of the Gospel lingers: God loved intensely the World this way: He gave His only Son to die for each one of us. There is no greater love than this.
Cc – “I love you so much”. We want to hear that from our loved ones, for sure. Not only hear, but see and experience. That’s what we also hear that from God throughout the Bible. He loves us very much. What we can always keep in mind, and in our hearts, is that He loves us this way: Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
 Ephesians 2
 Adding a further angle to today’s lessons, in Numbers 21 we see God giving a visible sign for the people to be saved. He might as well have given some words to Moses to pronounce over them that would accomplish the same thing. But there is the Bronze Serpent. Ironically, the same animal that deceived Adam and Eve now is a sign of salvation for Israel. In the same way, the same Nazarene who was reputed to be another one of those crazy prophets of the time, and even an enemy of the Jews, becomes the One lifted up in a pole to bring about salvation and peace with God.