The Call to Look Up
“And 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.”
- John 3:14-15
In Numbers 21, we read of the Israelites grumbling against God’s provision for them in the wilderness followed by God’s judgement of them through fiery serpents within the camp. When they recognized their sin, the Israelites asked Moses to cry out to the Lord on their behalf. God’s mercy was demonstrated through the serpent on the pole. When the people looked at the serpent lifted up on the pole, they found healing from the poisonous and life-threatening bites from the serpents. Salvation was found only by looking from themselves to the provision of God for them.
In our reading from the Gospel of John, John alludes to this serpent that was lifted up in the wilderness for the healing of God’s people. Once again, to find healing, the people must look away from themselves and up to the provision of God. To have eternal life, one must see and believe in the Son of Man who was lifted up on the cross. There, the sin of mankind met with the justice of a holy God. In offering himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin, Jesus made the way for those who would believe in him to have eternal life.
God provided the serpent for the nation of Israel after they recognized their sin against him and against Moses. The Lord provided healing from his judgement and death from the serpents. Once again, God has provided healing; however, in order to receive the healing and the gift of eternal life, one must first recognize his or her need for salvation and the fact that there is no way to save oneself.
You need a Savior; I need a Savior. God has provided that Savior by sending his Son. The question becomes whether we will look to him. We are very good at surrounding ourselves with the comforts of this world and with many assurances that we are good people doing good things. The ongoing temptation of our comfortable lives is that we can do it on our own.
The invitation of Lent is to see that we are but dust, that we are mortal beings with limitations. If we could save ourselves, the Lord would not have sent his Son. Are you living in this holy invitation to see yourself, to see your sin and shortcomings, and to see your desperate need for a Savior? The gift of Easter is a glorious one when you have seen your need and God’s great provision for your need.
May we lift our eyes to see the love of the Lord demonstrated on the cross for us and may we put our trust in his salvific work. When we believe in him, we, too, receive this gift of eternal life. Reflection:
What does it mean for you to lift your eyes to see Jesus on the cross? How are you changed by what you see there?
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