Fourth Sunday of Lent (B)
The Bronze Serpent and Christ Jesus
The Israelites began complaining about the manna from heaven. Was God’s miraculous provision, now all taken for granted?
Was there nothing new anymore? Not even God’s mercies, new every morning?
The complaining started this time, probably in the middle of the fortieth year of wandering toward the Promised Land. They were stalled because of a set back, they couldn’t go through Edom (Numbers 20:21), so they had to retrace there steps back in the direction of the Red Sea.
The snakes came as a direct result of the complaining. God sent them! That got the people’s attention. They were sorry. They asked to intercede to God on their behalf.
The LORD hears the intercession and he acts in response. He lifts up the enemy, not to exalt the enemy but to deal with it, to provide a Way, for his people, to be healed, by simply looking at this bronze casting of a serpent, lifted up on a pole.
How well do we deal with set backs?
Have we taken heaven for granted?
Have we stopped looking for something new?
Are we complaining that things are always the same or that it’s taking too long?
If so, we can turn to the intercessor whom God has given us, Jesus, the Christ.
The Bible tells us good news; that once you were dead, full of sin, obeying Satan, who was at work in our disobedient hearts, all of us used to live that way, following the passions and the desires of our evil nature (Ephesians 2:1-3). Then God heard the intercession of Christ himself. He raised up Christ, in his mercy, humiliated for us, so that all people could look to him (believe in him) and be healed (saved), freed from judgement (John 3:18), come into the light (John 3:21) and begin on a new path, to do the good things God always intended us to do (Ephesians 2:10). The means of deliverance is faith – it is by faith that we are saved. Looking upward – and seeing Christ. Looking beyond the natural. Looking deep within.
Commentators place verses 14 and 15 along with verses 1-12, the encounter with Nicodemus. So if you read it in that context, you see two things.
Firstly that Nicodemus doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand the need to be born from above, to see things from God’s perspective. He doesn’t grasp what it means for Spirit to give birth to spirit. So Jesus says to him, “how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things” (John 3:12).
Secondly, that Jesus promises Nicodemus, and all who believe in the Son of Man, will have eternal life (as a result of the Son of Man’s dying and being raised up). [Eternal life is “sharing in the life of the Eternal One” – Expositor’s Bible Commentary].
One final thought. Hezekiah had to destroy the Bronze Snake because it had become an object of idolatry (2 Kings 18:4). We must be watchful that our focus is in the right direction, on God the Maker, and not on anything that has been made. Jesus helps us with that. He reminds us of who he is – the Way.
Are we looking up in the right direction?
Where can we celebrate the signs of healing and saving, of light and freedom, and of good things being done?
In Christ, you’ve given everything needed
To live fully and freely
To find healing and salvation
Light and freedom
And see good things coming