Sunday Sermon 18 March – From Grumpy to Gorgeous God Kid

Readings: Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21

Message for today:

Who’s your favourite prophet?

I’m thinking of the grumpy prophet who shows us what we’re all good at! Yes it’s Mr Mega grumpy!


  • Who was ungrateful that he had been saved from being killed by sailors or eaten by sharks!
  • Who forgot that God orchestrated a big fish to get him to land!
  • Who was fed up when the people actually listened to his words and said sorry to God!

I found this comment about Lent this week:

William Willimon, a Methodist bishop in northern Alabama wrote years ago, “Go ahead admit it, preacher.  You love it.  Lent is your favorite season of the church year.  Children love Christmas, missionaries love Epiphany, charismatics dote on Pentecost — but for preachers, nothing beats Lent.  Here is the homiletical season par excellence, six weeks when we are given license to do what we would do all year if we could: breast-beating, belittling, berating.  It’s a time of sackcloth and ashes, the long fast, self-denial, focus upon sin and its consequences. 

Every preacher gets to play the prophet at Lent.  And the beautiful part is, the people love it.  ‘You are the overaggressive ones whose culpability made the cross inevitable,’ we preach.  ‘All like sheep have gone astray,’ we cry, and the people in unison say, ‘You really stepped on our toes today, preacher.  What a wonderful Lenten litany.’ 

 Bishop Willimon continued – , ‘the prophet is sent not to scold but to save.’” Which is what Jonah took a while to figure out!

Last week we saw Jesus the prophet – engaging in prophetic action AND prophesying his terrible death.

Today we read about His saving purpose!

It’s a wonderful passage. “Jesus” – after all, means “God saves”. (“Joshua”)

Yesterday was St Patrick’s Day. Hurray for the Irish! Green shirt day! Yay! One can forgive the Irish parishioner who got excited when he heard John 3 read for the first time.

“An Irish Pharisee!” he exclaimed! “What?” said his priest. “Where did you get that from”? It’s John 3:1 – “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nic O’demus…” says he.

It’s all Nic O’demus’ fault this business. Creeping around in the dark wanting to see Jesus – wanting a private interview like an Irish scallywag!

Lots of theories about Nicodemus’ night visit. He was a student who studied late at night and HAD TO see Jesus ‘cause he couldn’t sleep! Nicodemus was being secretive – didn’t want others in the Jewish counsel to see him talking to this heretic!

It’s a good thing he went. We have the conversation that perplexes people who resist God and do the theological and logical ducking and diving. They talk about the Christians as the “born agains” as if that were a weird cult or strange aberration!

“He’s one of those! A ‘born again’!”   My usual response is simple – IS THERE ANY OTHER KIND OF CHRISTIAN?

 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”   In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:2-3)

Born from above, Nicodemus!

The passage is rich in explanation and challenge. Just a couple of key points today:

  • 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

It’s the work of the Holy Spirit who brings us to the Kingdom!

Back to verse 14:

  • 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

God had dealt with sin before. The grumpy grannies and grandpas, men and women in the desert who had left slavery in Egypt – sulked and moaned. And God dealt with sin – there was judgement through snakes!

In Numbers 21:4-5 we read: But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses.

Not a good thing to do! Speaking against God and his leader!  The result was swift:

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.

And so the snake on a pole is given as a way to be saved – because they repented:

                        7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

  • So that’s the link to this simile – this comparison between Jesus’ cross and Moses’ pole:

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

And it continues: 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[b] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

We breathe a sigh of relief. This was a rescue plan! And:  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (V17)

Are people condemned? When they reject this amazing deal – yes they are! Look at verse 18:

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Not to believe in His name is to reject everything that his name stands for – the saviour and redeemer – and by implication to reject what he offers.

The condemnation is brought upon ourselves if we reject what is offered.

Instead of looking to the Son of Man lifted on the cross – we look to ourselves, the gods of Mammon (wealth) and fame. Or we want to be god ourselves.

And that makes us grumpy. You’ll never be satisfied until you look to the cross – until you turn AND FIX your eyes upon Jesus! Until you really give up your WHOLE life. You’ll always be grumpy! Cross about something. Dissatisfied with the government, your neighbours, yourself, and especially the church.  There’s something weird that the people who try to live this out (the church) – and the poor preachers who try to spell it out – commonly are the target of disgruntled people – the grumpy club! “It was better in the old days back in Egypt” is their cry.

Martin Luther spoke of this verse as the gospel in miniature and said this: “If I were as our Lord God, and these vile people were as disobedient as they now be, I would knock the world to pieces” Small wonder that Luther marvels that God should love the world at all. “God so loved the world” is a miracle in every sense.

And those that believe (which means trust – it’s not an intellectual agreement) HAVE eternal life! And “eternal life” is not heaven when you die.

It includes that. It is the age that they were waiting for – a future age where things would be right again. Sounds like the kingdom of God – the reign of God – this eternal life which Jesus explains later in this Gospel:

For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:2 -3).  Not an idea (know about you) but an experience (know you).

Got it? Want it? Take it today! Follow Jesus! Look to Him on the cross and follow! Trust Jesus as your Saviour today! You can be born again. Born from above. Become a child of the one “above” –  from a grumpy one to a gorgeous child of God!


About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on March 17, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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