4th Sunday in Lent (B)
John 3:14-21
March 10, 2024

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The text I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel from St. John.

The term old news refers to something that’s reported that everyone already knows.  If I tell you the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, that’s old news.  Old news doesn’t really matter anymore because people have moved on to new news.  I don’t think it’s wrong to say that there are plenty of Christians who view the Bible as old news.  Have you ever found yourself thinking, “I’ve heard all this before” or “There goes Pastor again.”  It’s stuff you’ve heard a hundred times:  Adam and Eve, Satan, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, eternal life, justification, forgiveness.  One class of confirmation students told me I talk about Jesus’ death too much.  Are the readings and the sermon old news to you?  Do you zone out and not pay as close attention as you should.  Take John 3:16 for example.  It’s the best-known passage in the Bible, yet for many it’s old news. “Yeah, yeah.  God so loved the world; I’ve heard it before.”  I know you’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again, because when push comes to shove, it’s not old news, it’s Good News!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  It seems impossible that one verse can contain so much Good News, and yet it’s there, clear as day.  We use the word love a lot, we love our families, our favorite foods, that boy or girl at school.  Love is good and at times it’s incredibly deep, such as the love I have for my family.  Our love though pales when compared to God’s love.  If I tell you God’s love is bigger than the universe which is thought to be trillions of lightyears in diameter, I will fall far short.  If we compare God’s love to the number of snowflakes in a mountain blizzard, it’s not even close.  God’s love is so much greater than we can imagine we fail to appreciate it.  Saint Paul writes in Ephesians: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that according to the riches of His glory…you may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth…of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:14-19).

God’s incomprehensible love for you means that God sent His Son to bring love, not deliver condemnation.  Jesus says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Jesus could’ve come as the wielder of God’s judgment over your sins.  He could’ve come bearing the sword of God to cut down those who don’t believe.  But He didn’t!  He came to save the world, not judge it.  John says in his first letter: “He is the propitiation [the sacrifice] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

You might view this as old news or as news that doesn’t move you, but it’s not!  Do you understand that this is the greatest news you’ll ever hear?  It’s never old news because you need forgiveness!  You’re a sinner.  A gossip, a thief, an idolater, an adulterer.  You’re covetous, angry, and sinfully minded.  We all justly deserve God’s earthly and eternal punishment.  But what does Jesus say?  “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned.”  Whoever believes is forgiven, saved, and given eternal life.  And why?  It’s as simple as God’s love and the death of Jesus.

In the Old Testament you heard about a bronze snake on a high pole which healed anyone who looked at it after being bitten by a snake.  This snake on a pole pointed to Jesus because anyone who looks at Jesus on the cross with faith is healed after being bitten by Sin and Satan.  Jesus says, “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.”  When you look at Christ hanging on the cross you receive healing for your souls, cleansing in His blood, forgiveness in His death, eternal life in His resurrection.  How can this news ever get old?  How can we ever take it for granted?  This isn’t old news, it’s the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ which isn’t just announced, it’s given to you.

Now maybe you view this not as old news but as fake news.  Fake news is the stuff you hear that isn’t true but sounds plausible.  I promise you, God promises you, that what Jesus said is just as true now as when He first said it.  This is something I try to drive home every single time I get a chance!  You’re a sinner, maybe you think you’re a terrible sinner, or maybe you’ve wandered far from God.  None of these things will change God’s love for you!  Jesus willingly endured Hell on your behalf so why do you think He won’t love you and forgive you?  Sure, you might feel that He won’t, but what’s more trustworthy – God or your feelings?  Your feelings will lie to you or mislead you.  God never will.  To remind yourself of this beautiful fact, recite John 3:16, but fill in your own name.  “For God so loved ME, that He gave ME His only Son so I will never perish, but I will have eternal life.”

Some Christians believe that Jesus died for only some people.  If you want, if you need, God’s love, where’s the good news in this?  That maybe Jesus died for you or not?  Maybe He died for your neighbor or maybe not?  If Jesus only died for some people, then God’s love isn’t all that great, and John 3:16 is a lie.  Paul tells Timothy: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (I Tim 2:6).  John the Baptist points to Jesus and declares: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).  Do these verses sound like Jesus only died for some?  Hardly, they say the opposite!  Jesus died for the sins of all people, of all times, and of all places.  No one is outside of the love found in His blood, not you or anyone else.  Since Jesus died for all, we want people to hear this good news because not everyone knows it or believes it!

Jesus sadly says, “The Light has come into the world, and people loved the Darkness rather than the Light.”  You know these people, don’t you?  You’re related to them, work with them, drink coffee with them, play cards with them, go to school with them.  You know those who don’t know the Good News that John 3:16 is for them as well.  They don’t have to be outright immoral people who kick puppies and stuff like that to be in the dark.  All unbelievers are living in the dark, and they need you to lead them to Jesus who is the Light of the World.  They need to know that God loves them so much He gave His Son to die for them.  They need to know that God isn’t waiting to punish them.  They need to know there’s a way out of their guilt or their sin.  They need to know the man who knows all their sorrow and pain, their discouragement, the disappointment because He died shouldering them!  Point them to Jesus and His cross!  Point them to the one who is making them right with God through His death!  Point them to the empty tomb so they know that death isn’t the end! Now maybe they won’t listen, in that case they’ve condemned themselves, but you never know how the greatest news they can hear, will change them and lead them into the light of Jesus.   This is why I challenge you to invite people to church for Easter.  Offer to pick them up, sit with them, help them understand the service.  Invite them to stay for coffee and rolls to show them what a great congregation Emmanuel is.  And why do you do this?  Because you love them, and most of all because God loves them.

So, I ask you: is the Gospel, God’s promises of life and salvation, old news you’ve heard too much about?  Or is it the Good News that you can never hear enough of?  The promises of God that were fulfilled in Jesus were made a long time ago, but they’ll never be old news.  Our sin isn’t old news, so the forgiveness our sins through the blood of Jesus can never be old news.  Fight the urge to think that you’ve heard it all before.  I’m sure you have, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t absolutely, positively crucial for you.  It is!  For God so loved you, that He gave His only Son for you, that you will never perish but you will have eternal life.


Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen