How Much?

Scripture – Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

Title – “How Much Did God Love the World”

Love. How can love be measured? Have you ever tried to make a list of the people you love starting at the top with the people you love the most? When you stopped to take a look at this rather questionable list, were you disgusted with yourself? How are you spending your love? Should we keep love on a budget as we try to do with money?

Most of us would say that money is limited so we do need to parcel it in the hope that it will reach for the month. But I believe that God cooperates with people who give daringly; not that we will be wealthy, but that we will have “enough” when we give generously to people who cannot return it in material ways. Giving anonymously or giving time instead of, or in addition to, money has its own invisible benefit.

Love is different. The more love we give, the more love is restored within us. It is like we can never deplete our supply of love if we continue to give it – to let it flow through us. If we grow weary of giving love and take a break, when next we look the supply is gone – gone!

From where does love come? It comes from our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Think of the wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Call our supply of love a miracle like the wine. The best wine last. Does this evaluation apply to our love – the best love is last.? Must we practice love? Does it get better with time? I have not thought about this idea until now. You may be thinking that love is not like playing an instrument or playing soccer or being a speaker. Should love be spontaneous and natural or is it a learned and practiced activity?

Think about the people we know and think about ourselves. How do expressions of love come from you? Do you need to remember to hug a person or give a compliment to a person or is it a natural expression? For me giving compliments is natural. I really need that person to know he or she is appreciated and his or her gifts and talents are appreciated. Every single person contributes something of value to his or her circle of influence. But … hugging is not natural to me. A handshake is easier but even then, my hands are reluctant to think that I am worthy to shake hands with someone or that the person is longing to have a least a handshake from me seeing as hugs are at a premium. Also, handshakes are a sign of respect and go a long way in forging a working or a friendship relationship.

So what kind of person are you? What indication of love flows from you, either naturally or by practiced discipline? Spending time is a sign of love and respect. Talk about limited money. Limited time is even more pressing. Twenty-four/seven is all we get. Each minute has value. How are we going to spend this precious commodity? It depends on our nature. Some of us want time to go faster, especially the work hours. Some of us want time to go slowly. How do we spend time? Is it showing love or is it showing a false god of cramming as much accomplishment into a block of time as we possibly can.
Moving our thoughts to the love of God, how much did God have invested in love, in loving? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to die on Calvary’s tree from sin to set me free. Some day he’s coming back, what glory that will be. Wonderful His love for me.” These words are taken from a song based on John 3:16 which reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” or as some of us learned “so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have everlasting life.” So God gave His Son. But it was part of the plan!

It was God’s plan to save us. To sacrifice His own Son! Those of you who had to attend your own child’s funeral know what this is. Think of Abraham who waited one hundred years for a son. Then what did God require of Abraham. God tested Abraham’s faith by requiring Abraham to take his longed-for son to a spot away from other people, to build an altar ready for a flame, to pick up his precious son and start to lay him on this pyre when what should appear but an animal to take the place of precious Isaac.

We don’t read in scripture what kind of psychological damage this did to Isaac. Imagine! I assume there were no agencies charged with the protection of children in those days! Of course, if no one was there to watch, who would report. If I had been Isaac, I think I would be tempted to report to someone, if only to Mother Sarah.

God sent this animal to take the place of Isaac. It was a test of faith. God sent a replacement for us – it was Jesus. Imagine how many crosses would be set in line on the hill of Golgatha if we all should take our turn on the cross or even if an animal were sent to take our place. This way there were three crosses to represent us in God’s plan. There was the Son of God between two people who had been charged with sin which warranted (so it was decided) death on a cross. Jesus was there not because he had sinned but because he was and is pure. Pure as a perfect animal which was demanded in the Hebrew tradition for the removal of sins – a perfect animal!

Jesus’ interaction with these two sinners (aka known as criminals) can symbolize the people who are being shown the path to heaven and the other group who are being shown the path to hell. In my opinion, it was a choice of the individuals. Others of you will say that God made the choice – which person would go to heaven and which person would go to hell. Endless hours of conversations and debates and – yes – arguments have been spent on this debate. Was it a choice of these two criminals to see the visions and make a choice or did God make the choice before these two criminals were born? [Your are welcome to reply to share your thinking (theology) about this question.]

If we focus on the word “believe” as the secret to eternal life, what leads us to believe? Is it our own choice or is God secretly controlling strings which are attached to our minds and hearts? If we read John 3:17 through 21, we may receive some enlightenment. In John 3:14-15, Jesus is saying, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Moses in the wilderness. To what part of the forty years in the wilderness is Jesus referring? We find the story in Numbers 21:4-9.

The people were in a spell of complaining about this rough life in the wilderness. They got to be thinking that life under a Pharaoh was better than life in the wilderness. They knew how to complain. Remember that this group was not the size of a large choir or even a large congregation. This nation of Israelites was hundreds of thousands – 603,550 plus the Levites who were ordered by God to care for the sacred tent. During one of these times of radical complaining, God chose to send poisonous serpents among the people. The serpents bit the people, and many Israelites died.

Guess what! The people repented and asked Moses to ask God to take away the serpents. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live. So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.”

As Jesus explained to his disciples, Jesus needed to be lifted up as the Son of Man to save the “men,” translated to humans. Jesus was both Son of God and Son of Man. He came to bring salvation and it happened on a cross, a lifted-high cross, the serpent-lifted-high being the model or the “type” of the lifted-high Jesus. We have this wonderful hymn where we lift high the cross.

Lift High The Cross
George William Kitchin

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim;
Let all adore and praise that sacred name.

Come, Christians, follow where our Savior trod, the Lamb victorious, Christ the Child of God.
Each newborn servant of the Crucified bears on the brow the seal of Christ who died.
Christ, once lifted on the glorious tree, your death has brought us life eternally.
Set up your throne, that earth’s despair may cease, beneath the shadow of its healing peace.
So shall our song of triumph ever be praise to the Crucified for victory.

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim;
Let all adore and praise that sacred name.

This cross is now our salvation but we need to hold it as a “type” for the salvation of our fellow humans. It is our responsibility – not Moses’, not Jesus’, ours! It is what works for humankind. We must lift high the cross to save the world. Too big a job? One at a time, one at a time!

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death. Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s