Sermon Starters

Support and Resources For Pastors and
Christian Ministry Professionals

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

The Fourth Sunday In Lent-B

Option A: From Rev. Kelly Bedard

"Law & Gospel Snakes"
John 3:14-21

A. Destroying and Condemning Life

On snakes ("loving darkness instead of light," verse 19):

1. From Hebrew nachash, "to hiss, whisper"

2. Ancient symbols of fertility

3. Cunning; knowledge of hidden things; hostile intentions; crooked ways; authors of temptation

B. Giving and Saving Life

A graduate professor urges that our sermons and personal witness be:

1. Socially relevant: speaking to felt needs (truth [Christ, the Truth--John 14:6] vs. deceit)

2. Intellectually defensible: making sense and being understandable ("coming into the light," verse 21)

3. Personally redemptive: leading to a life-changing experience (eternal life! [verse 16])

a. Sloughing off of a snake's skin indicates rejuvenation

b. Peace with a snake is a mark of the Messianic Kingdom (Isaiah 11:8)

Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.


Option B: From Rev. Wayne Dobratz

A Snake, The Cross, and the Good News
John 3:14-21

I A Snake

A. It was the tool used by Satan to lead our first parents into sin--Gen. 3:1ff.

B. It is one of the titles the Scripture gives to Satan

1. Rev. 12:9ff
2. Rev. 20:2

C. Snake Venom is a picture of sin

1. Sickness
2. Death (See Numbers 21:4ff)

II God sends a cure in One who is lifted up

A. The power of the snake is overcome by Jesus being lifted up.

1. As we see in John 3:14
2. He became a curse for us, as recorded in Gal. 3:10ff

B. The cure is provided by God's own Son

1. Who is forsaken by His Father, enduring the abandonment of Hell. Matt. 27:46
2. They mock Him and pierce His hands and His feet, as predicted in Ps. 22:12ff

III The Good News

A. He became sin for us, so we could receive His Righteousness--Cf. 2 Cor. 5:21

B. The cure for sin is received by faith

1. Just as the snakebite was cured in the desert--Num. 21:9
2. This cure is free for all--"Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
3. Repentance is necessary--John 3:19-21

Notes: Martin Luther writes on how the old Serpent was defeated by Jesus: We must have a Savior who is able to redeem us from the power of the god and prince of this world, that is, a Savior who is the true eternal God, through whom all who believe on Him become just and are saved.

For if he is no more than Moses or Elijah, He is not our Redeemer. But if, as the Son of God, He sheds His blood for us in order to redeem us and cleanse us from our sins, and if we believe it and face the devil with it when he tortures us because of our sins, then he must give way and let us rest in peace.

For the fishhook, that is, the divinity of Christ, was hidden under the angleworm, under His humanity. The devil snapped Him into his mouth when Christ died and was buried. This fishhook tore his belly for him, so that he could not hold on to Him but had to give Him up again and meet his death in the act.

This is our comfort supreme. For just as the devil could not hold Christ in death, so he cannot keep those in death who believe on Him. (What Luther Says, Vol. 1, p. 165ff.)

Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.S., M.Div.

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