Today’s Scripture Focus: John 3:14-21
My youngest daughter, aged 3, learned a tough lesson recently. We were awoken to her screaming at about 5 AM. She had gotten up, gone in the kitchen, and decided to fix herself something to eat. There on the table was an empty pudding container, yogurt…and an open bottle of habanero hot sauce. Not only had she eaten it, she had rubbed her eyes. Sophia has been warned repeatedly about staying in bed at night. She doesn’t understand that we’re not trying to keep her from having fun, but want to keep her safe. We tenderly washed her up and tucked her back in, hopefully a little more willing to listen to her parents.
This is a good summary of how the world treats God. God sent Jesus to offer us salvation. When we reject Jesus, we suffer the consequences of doing things our own way. Today’s scripture focus opens with an Old Testament example of this. In Numbers 21 we read that Israel had rejected the bread God had provided for them, and complained about wanting something better to eat. Soon, poisonous snakes overran their camp, and many people were bitten and died. When Israel cried out to God, God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a tall pole. When anyone looked up to it, they were healed and saved.
Now, Jesus is telling this story to Nicodemus, a Pharisee. Pharisees had their beliefs correct—they accepted the entire Bible of their time as the word of God. They believed in living a holy life. Yet, they had begun to trust in their own righteousness. They quit learning from God and instead used their beliefs to judge and condemn others. Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand that God’s ultimate desire was not to punish the world for its sins, but to save it from self destruction. In the same way that God provided a means of temporary salvation to Israel through the lifting of the serpent, God was providing eternal salvation through the lifting of the Son.
Jesus came into the darkness of the world to shine the light of God’s love. Today, we are offered the opportunity to step into the light. We can leave the darkness of our self destructive, sinful, “I know better than God” deeds and enter into salvation. How? By believing! To believe in God means simply to believe God. Belief is not just having our doctrine straight—it is trusting God that when we mess up, we can “look up” to Jesus and still be saved. The message of the entire Gospel of John can be summed up like this—God is like Jesus. We don’t have to be scared of God. Jesus shows us that God loves us and wants to save us.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
Can you think of a time when you got in trouble because you didn’t listen to someone (parents, spouse, friend) and had to do things “your way”? What about a time when you chose to believe in God, even when it was difficult to do so?
Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?
What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?