[The Gospel According to…] John 3:14-18

Bible turned to John 3 with Madecasse bean-to-bar dark chocolate from Madagascar

Today’s passageJohn 3:14-18

John 3:16: the best-known verse in the Bible? Likely the best-known reference in the Bible, at least; we’ve all seen the John 3:16 guys holding up their signs at sporting events, but I couldn’t tell you how many of us could actually quote it. It was probably the first verse I memorized. My go-to verse as a definition of the gospel is usually 1 Peter 3:18, but the notion that God shows his love for us by giving his Son in order to bring us eternal life…well, that’s a worthy summary of the good news too.

See the writing at the top of the Bible page in the photo above? That’s my dad’s handwriting. He’s owned this Bible since 1988, although these days he primarily uses his laptop with Bibleworks–which is why I, living some 500 miles away, am able to read from it for this blog every morning.

This passage reminds me of a story my dad told me, and I’ll try to remember it and recount it here. While working with the Navigators, my dad led a number of one-on-one Bible studies in the gospel of John. One time, as he and a guy he was discipling read through this passage, Dad admitted that he wasn’t sure why Jesus referred to Moses’ serpent in the wilderness. The other guy, a relatively new Christian, suggested, “Why don’t we go back and read the part he’s talking about?” So they turned to Numbers 21:4-9 and checked out Moses and the serpent, and the other guy immediately got it.

As the story goes, the Israelites had grown bitter against Moses and God as they made their way through the wilderness, so God punished them with venomous snakes. When the people repented and asked Moses to intercede for them, God told Moses to make a bronze serpent on a pole, so that if anyone who was bitten looked at the bronze serpent, he would live. The guy my dad was discipling saw that the serpent was an analogy for Jesus. Jesus didn’t judge the world, but instead offered it salvation; he didn’t judge those who rejected him, because they were already judged.

The snakes aren’t the good news. The evil isn’t the good news. The evil and the snakes that it brings are a given. The good news is that there’s a cure.

Today’s chocolate is another brick of the Madecasse. Tasty stuff!

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