The bronze serpent made by Moses was the only way for the dying to find salvation. They didn’t have to fashion their replica, pray twenty times on their knees, or cut themselves with stones. The clear-eyed look of faith was the remedy for the fatal venom coursing in their veins.
Centuries later a leading Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus under cover of night. Jesus’ powerful teaching and miracles of healing amazed him. Nicodemus was a well respected, religious leader who knew the law backward and forwards but inside there was no life. He began to talk to Jesus, attempting a theological discussion. But Jesus cut right to the chase. He said in John 3:3, “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’”
To help him understand how a new birth could happen Jesus said in John 3:14-16 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
God blessed us with six beautiful kids, five girls and one son. The boy was a complete surprise. During the pregnancy, we chose not to find out the sex of the baby. We didn’t know it at the time, but our OBGYN stole a peak during a sonogram. She later said she fully expected a female. To everyone’s surprise out popped a little man. In the delivery room, my two oldest girls, Moriah and Emily, my mother-in-law and mom all celebrated. Then we walked deceptively into the waiting room to tell the news. “Suprise! It’s a boy!” The place erupted with shouts, jumps, and hugs.
A few years later I took our son on his first fishing trip. A friend of ours owned a farm with a lovely pond tucked away. However, guarding the land was an angry llama. I’d heard about the furry beast from a member of our church. While working on the property, he was attacked. This llama from hell hoofed him in the head, inflicting cuts and bruises. Wanting to fish the spot badly, I called ahead to make sure the llama was locked up.
Pulling up the long gravel driveway, I saw the animal in the distance behind fencing. I grabbed our lunch, Arlie’s Spiderman fishing rod from Walmart, and a tackle box. We crossed the tall brown grass to the pond below. Midway down I saw the llama’s head pop around the side of a barn in the distance. I stopped and stared back. He was out, and began charging.
I dropped everything, picked up my son and sprinted toward the fence behind us. My legs burned, as I worked muscles I never knew I had. Looking over my shoulder I could see the beast gaining. Reaching the fence, I picked up Arlie, held him over the rail, and dropped him a foot and half from the ground. I knew hoofs of the beast were going to hammer me. I squinted my eyes, clenched my teeth, put my arms around my head, and braced myself for impact. After a few seconds, I flopped myself over the fence and looked back. For some reason the beast stopped short. Holding my son, he slowly walked over and hissed over the fence at us (See llama and pond above).
The moral of the story is clear. Llamas will spit and kill you. On that day, I did what every parent would do. I gave up my safety for my son’s. This crazy experience shed new light on John 3:16. Jesus gave up his life, stood between us and death, taking the punishment for our sins. But John 3:16 goes even further. Yes, Jesus gave his life, but God gave up his one and only son out of love. He did this for us not as his children, but while we were dead in trespasses and sins. To save us God did what we would never do. The work is now finished. All we have to do is believe and receive.
The other day our family pulled up to our favorite restaurant, Chick-fil-A. Our order was large, eight meals. At the window we heard surprising news, “Already paid for!” The car ahead paid our bill. We blew up with gratitude over free chicken. Psalm 118:21 says, “I will give thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.”
The wheels can fall off the van. The house can burn. We can lose our health and job. They can lock us in jail. But nothing can ever take away the source of our thanks.
Think about your life before coming to faith in Jesus. How has knowing Jesus made a difference? Think about all the circumstances and people leading to that moment of decision. God passionately pursued you! Stop right now and give thanks. The Message translation of 2 Corinthians 9:15 puts it this way, “Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!”