Sermon March 16, 2014/ Vicar James Preus/ Mount Olive Lutheran/ John 3:1-17/ God Loves The World To Death
3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘Youmust be born again.’ 8 The windblows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but youdo not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. With this one statement, Jesus teaches us the extremity of God’s love. God loves every single human-being. He loves you. He loves the person sitting next to you. He loves your mom and dad. God loves your best friend. God loves your worst enemy. He loves everyone you know. He loves everyone you don’t know. God loves the guy who cut you off on your way to work. God loves the kid who teased you at school. God loves the person you told that nasty rumor about. God loves everyone!
So we are clear that God loves each and every individual human-being. So whether you love or hate someone, know that God loves that person.
God loves us. When a person loves someone, he usually shows it in some way. A wife gives her husband a kiss. A child picks a bouquet of dandelions for his mom. A soldier writes a letter a day to his sweetheart back home. We can all think of ways people express love.
Sometimes it is more difficult to love. A young man gets arrested. His parents love him so much that they bail him out. A mother suffers from old age and even her personality changes from a kind person to a mean and hurtful person. Yet her children show their love and take care of her, because she is their mother. A husband lies to his wife and shakes the confidence in their marriage. Yet his wife out of love forgives him and works to regain trust in him.
We experience even in our lives how difficult love can be. We see the cost love has on our emotions, our bodies, and our time. And we can even see the measure of one’s love by how much he will pay for love’s sake.
So how do we measure God’s love? What did God do for love’s sake?
God loves the world. Yet, the world does not love God. In fact, ever since the fall into sin human-beings are incapable of loving God. When Adam and Eve strayed from God they affected the entire human race. Every human is born an enemy of God. Just as every seed that comes from a prickly weed will sprout another prickly weed, every child born of a sinner is a sinner. Sinners hate God. They show their hatred toward God by disobeying him, loving themselves more than God and other people.
Throughout the history of the earth God witnessed the people he created turn against him. In fact, God knew before he ever created the earth that people would turn against him. He knew that people would behave as if they were his enemies. Yet God created the world anyway.
God created the world, because he loves us. He knew that we would rebel against him, yet instead of rejecting us, God planned our salvation. God created us so that we would live. Our sin brings us death. God planned to give us life.
Here we see the measurement of God’s love. God created us to live forever. Our rebellion from God assures that we will die. But God loves us. He wants us to live forever. What must he do for love’s sake to save us from eternal death and give us eternal life? The cost is staggering. There literally exists no price higher than that God had to pay to save us from death. God loves us. So he paid it.
But God had seen my wretched state
Before the World’s foundation,
And mindful of His mercies great,
He planned for my salvation.
He turned to me a father’s heart;
He did not choose the easy part
But gave his dearest treasure.
God said to His beloved Son:
“It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation.
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with you forever.”
Martin Luther beautifully expresses God’s love in these words. God saw the people he loves destined to die. The only way God could save us was for him to pay his dearest treasure. God paid his dearest treasure.
God the Father sent his Son into the world: the Son with whom he has lived from eternity. The Son he loves. The Son through whom the entire universe was made. God sent his Son to earth to take our place under the law and to be obedient to God in our place. And as Jesus said: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” God sent his Son, Jesus to be lifted up on the cross. Moses lifted up a serpent modeled after the poisonous snakes that had bitten the people of Israel in the wilderness. By looking at this model of the very curse that brought them death, the people of Israel were spared their lives.
On the cross Jesus took the form of the curse that brings us death. Isaiah 53 states: “He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors.” God paid for our sins by having his eternal Son Jesus become sin for us. He was punished for our selfishness, our lack of love, our dissatisfaction, our unbelief. God laid on him the iniquity of us all and Jesus paid it on the cross. That is the measure of God’s love. God paid the holy, precious blood, and the innocent, suffering and death of His beloved Son, so that we could have eternal life.
And whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
That’s it? We believe? That sounds as silly as staring at a sculpture of a snake to cure a snake bite! Yet, because Jesus paid for everything that separates us from God, that is all we need do. We need only receive Jesus’ forgiveness and holiness by believing in him. By believing in Jesus we receive eternal life.
Yet, we have a problem. In our sin, our flesh is utterly corrupted. We are born into sin. We are not even able to believe in Jesus! Our flesh will only reject Jesus like a diseased body rejects a healthy organ that is transplanted to save the body’s life. This is why Jesus says: that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit.
We must be born of the Spirit to receive Jesus. As children born of the flesh, we can only reject God and continue in disbelief. As children of the Spirit, we seek after God.
Jesus gives us a new birth. He gives us a birth of water and the Spirit. God connects his promise with water by placing his Word and Spirit with the water. When we are baptized into the name of God, we receive a second birth. This birth is a birth from above! We are able to enter the kingdom of God through this marvelous birth!
Baptism is spiritual birth. In physical birth a helpless baby is born. The baby needs to be nursed, changed, clothed, changed again, nursed again, burped, changed again, etc. When a baby is born, you can’t hand her a bus ticket and tell her to live on her own. Baptized spiritual children need to be taken care of too. They need to be fed God’s Word. They need Jesus’ forgiveness. In baptism we enter God’s kingdom of grace. That is we enter Christ’s holy Christian Church on earth where Jesus forgives our sins and feeds us his life-giving Word.
If a baptized child is not fed God’s Word and does not have his sin’s forgiven through Christ’s Words, that spiritual child might starve or incur a spiritual infection and suffer loss of faith. When the baptized child loses his faith the spiritual disease turns terminal. We can only enter into eternal life through faith in Jesus.
In Christ’s holy Church on earth we receive this spiritual food and spiritual medicine. Eventually our bodies of flesh will die. We will no longer live in God’s kingdom of grace, but we will enter God’s kingdom of glory. God’s kingdom of glory is in heaven. God’s kingdom of glory is Christ’s holy Christian Church in heaven. There we will enjoy eternal life.
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
God loves us, so he sent Jesus to die for all our sins. God loves us, so he says only to believe in Jesus and we will have eternal life. God loves us, so he gives us new birth of the Spirit, so that we may believe in Jesus. God loves us, so he gives us spiritual food and medicine in both Word and Sacrament that forgive our sins and strengthen our faith.
Through faith we believe that Jesus, the Son of God died for us, that he forgives our sins, that he defeated death, that he defeated the devil. Through faith we believe that God has given us eternal life, salvation and glory. Through faith we believe that God has made us his children through Jesus. Through faith we receive everything God’s love gives us, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and adoption as children of God.
God so loved the world, that he expressed his love by paying the greatest price possible, the Son of God. God so loved the world that he made us his children through a new birth of water and the Spirit. God so loved the world, that he has given us eternal life as his children through faith in Jesus!
Let us pray:
All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise
To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God who saved us by His grace;
All glory to His merit.
O triune God in heav’n above,
You have revealed Your saving love;
Your blessed name be hallow.
LSB 556 Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice. St. 4 & 5.
LSB 555: Salvation Unto Us Has Come Stz. 10.