Steven Alloway, Granada Hills, CA

Warm-up Question

Have you ever been in a seemingly hopeless situation, then been given a second chance?


When a building collapses, there’s an estimated 48-hour window during which trapped victims might be rescued. More generous estimates expand that to five or six days, maximum. Beyond that, the odds of survival decrease significantly. But after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey on February 6th, rescue teams were still pulling survivors from the rubble nearly 10 days later!

One 13 year old boy, Mustafa, was trapped for 228 hours. “I have no clue how he survived,” said rescue worker Uğur Sevgin. “Because as the excavator was in operation, there was more debris falling all around… Then from the rubble, we got him out, digging him out by hand.”

Rescue worker Özer Aydinli added, “When [they] said, ‘We found a person alive,’ we thought, ‘No, they must be hallucinating.’ We couldn’t believe it. But it is a miracle. The only thing we can say is that this is a great miracle.”

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think rescue workers have been able to find these survivors so far past the 48-hour window?
  • Do you think the survivors’ lives will be different going forward? How do you think Mustafa and the others will choose to live, having so narrowly escaped death?
  • If you were trapped somewhere and feared there was no hope of rescue, what would you regret not doing? What’s the first thing you would do once you were rescued?

Second Sunday in Lent

Genesis 12:1-4a

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

John 3:1-17

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

This has to be one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. John 3:16 is one of the first verses most of us learn and we can recite it by heart. But what does it really mean? More importantly, what does it mean in the context of the rest of the passage? Well, there’s a reason why it’s become one of the core teachings of Christianity: because the stakes are life and death. 

When Nicodemus comes to Jesus, hoping to learn from him, Jesus tells him something puzzling: “You must be born again.” An old man can’t go back into his mother’s womb, can he? But Jesus clarifies that this new birth isn’t a physical one, but one of water and the Spirit. Nicodemus remains confused, but to us, the message is clear: Following Jesus means much more than just seeking guidance from a wise teacher. It means having an entirely new life.

Jesus continues the new life imagery in a different way when he references Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. In Numbers 21, God sends venomous snakes into the Israelite camp, as punishment for their latest round of blasphemy. Many are bitten and dying.

But then God tells Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Any of the Israelites who look at the bronze snake won’t die, but will instead be healed. In using this analogy, Jesus demonstrates the stakes  to Nicodemus. Without being born again of water and the Spirit, we will surely die.

The good news is that we don’t have to. Just as Moses lifted up a snake on a pole to save the Israelites, Jesus was also lifted up—on the cross. And if we look to the cross and believe in him, then we too can be saved from death. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Discussion Questions

  1. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. In light of how some Pharisees viewed Jesus, what do you think it meant for Nicodemus that he went to seek guidance from Jesus? Do you think visiting him was a tough decision?
  2. Part of being given new life means leaving your old life behind. What are some aspects of your old life that you need to leave in the past, in order to follow Jesus?
  3. Like Mustafa and the other survivors pulled from the rubble in Turkey, how will you choose to live going forward, knowing that you too have escaped death?

Activity Suggestions

Read the story of Moses and the bronze serpent in Numbers 21:4-9. Make a list of the ways the story mirrors our salvation from sin.

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus, help us to turn from our old lives and fully embrace our new lives in you. Grant that we may always look to the cross, so that when death comes to us, we can be assured of eternal life. Amen.