“Men loved the darkness instead of light.”
What a word.
It’s not that men haven’t seen the light.
They chose the dark.
The proof’s in the pudding: “their deeds were evil.”
More than just choosing darkness, men actively hate the light.
They hate the light because it ruins their lives.
“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
It’s simple selfishness.
If I stand in the light, people can see me.
They can see my foulness.
They can see the intentional nature of my sin.
I don’t just sin out of ignorance.
I don’t just make mistakes.
I make decisions.
With sound mind and body I decide to do or not do.
Knowing full well what my parents say, what my teachers say, what my pastors say, what God says, still, I choose the dark and shun the light.
You have to work hard at it to be this wicked.
Numbers 21 tells us their complaints: “There’s no water.
There’s no bread.
This food stinks.
God hates us.”
They say that as they collect manna each morning and eat God’s quail.
They say that as God brings forth water from a rock.
They say that as Moses lifts his arms and the waters of the Red Sea divide and then crush Pharaoh.
They say that as a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire guide them through a wilderness.
They say that as the clothes on their back and the shoes on their feet don’t wear out.
No wonder John uses a word for wicked that we bring into English as “foul.”
Out of bounds.
And so Jesus says, “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already.”
Jesus could be called for piling on.
“Whoever,” that’s indefinitely inclusive: everyone whatsoever.
Jesus says, “It’s done then and remains done now.”
It would be enough for Jesus to say, “Whoever doesn’t believe in me stands condemned.”
He says “already.”
Paul says that in Ephesians: “when we were dead in transgressions.”
Not sort of dead.
Not kind of dead.
Not like being dead.
Bereft of life.
They kill you.
More, they condemn you.
When you sin you walk in darkness.
You choose against the light.
You hate God.
You hate Jesus, the Light of the world.
So God sends punishment.
To Israel he sent snakes, poisonous snakes.
He fuels our fears.
He takes us back to the Garden where a snake first introduced us to death.
Now everywhere we turn in this desert, we see snakes.
All looking for you.
To kill you.
And it’s not random.
It’s not tragic.
It’s not unfortunate.
It’s not accidental.
You sinned; you die.
You chose darkness; the light will condemn you for who you are: the grumbling, impatient sinner.
You reap what you sow.
You sow sin; you reap death.
And not a pleasant death.
Death by snakebite, poison, infecting, spreading, stinging.
The Israelites found relief eventually: death stops the sting.
But Jesus means the sting that never stops, the fires and torments of hell, next to which snakebites pale in comparison.
Perhaps you’d beg for them instead of the other.
Numbers 21 today shows us that God does this.
He punishes sin, your sin.
Israel “just” grumbled and complained.
They got impatient.
They wanted the Promised Land, you know, the milk and honey.
They were sick of waiting.
“Give it to me now, Lord!”
Of course, we know there’s no “just” with sin.
These sins showed active distrust in God.
They set aside the first commandment, giving God all fear, love, and trust, and then went on to misuse his name – “You liar!” – followed by despising the Word preached to them and dishonoring, angering, and disobeying those in authority.