Coming, calling, and promising

More from our pastor’s sermon last Sunday on Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus (John 3).  From Rev. James Douthwaite,  St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Lent 2 Sermon:

Nicodemus is thinking about what man does or can do; Jesus is talking about what God does, and what God has promised. Nicodemus was thinking of how man can get to God; Jesus is talking about God coming to man. Nicodemus is thinking works; Jesus is talking grace, or gift.

And so Nicodemus is, understandably, confused. This is a whole different way of thinking. And it’s why so many in our world today are confused. For still today, when it comes to religion and spirituality many first think it is about what we do, or can do, or have to do. It’s about man’s free will, or man’s works, or man’s decision. But if that’s the starting point, and even near the starting point, then the end is going to be very far away from the truth.

Because that’s not the beginning at all. The beginning is God. Whether it’s things physical or things spiritual, the beginning is God. It’s all about God descending to man. It’s all about God’s promises. And so in the beginning after Adam and Eve fell into sin and were afraid of God, God came to them and called them and made a promise, of a Saviour. And then this coming and calling and promise were repeated through the Old Testament. As we heard in the other readings, God came to a man named Abram (or Abraham) who did not know Him but worshiped false gods – and God called him and made a promise to him, of a land and of a Saviour. And then down through the generations, to Isaac and Jacob and Moses and Joshua and David and Solomon, God kept coming and calling and promising. Not that they do, but that they believe. There is doing, but the believing must come first.

And one of the best examples, Nicodemus – which surely you, a teacher of Israel, remember, Nicodemus – is the bronze serpent on a pole in the wilderness. What did the people do then, Nicodemus? All they were doing was getting bit by serpents. All they were doing was dying. But what happened, Nicodemus? God came to them and called them to faith and promised them healing and life. Wasn’t that wonderful, Nicodemus?

Well that’s what happening now, Nicodemus! Because just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so now a man is going to be lifted up – the Son of Man – that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. This is the fulfillment of all that coming and calling and promising of God.“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” So that man who will be lifted up for the life of the world, Nicodemus, that Son of Man, is the Son of God. God coming and calling and fulfilling His promise. Look to Him and not to yourself for your life.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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