One of the most famous lines from the Indiana Jones series is when Indiana [allow me to pause for the iGen-ers that have no idea who I’m talking about]--the bravest, smartest, and most handsome professor of archaeology in the world says, “Snakes… I hate snakes.” It’s so endearing… because I hate snakes too. I like to think that my distaste for snakes is because I was a biblical scholar at a very young age, but rather it is because I’m a giant fraidy-cat.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about Moses lifting up a bronze serpent… now if we don’t have Numbers 21 memorized, this may be a story of Moses that we are not particularly familiar with. Moses definitely had some tablets, bread from heaven, and a temper… but what about this serpent?
With their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
"Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!"
Pause. Let’s play a game… is this the Old Testament or the conversation you had with your 3 year old over dinner last night? Perhaps your children are tiny biblical scholars as well! How often are we this version of childlike as opposed to the childlike the Lord asks us to be! Unpause.
In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Wait, what?! OT God 101… complaining never ends well. [Dear Jesus, thank you for not sending serpents to my door every time I complain! Perhaps we could negotiate a deal where I get to pet a Corgi every time I don’t complain? No… just grace? That’s fair.]
Then the people came to Moses and said,
"We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us."
The people ask for an intercessor… a mediator… to save them from their sin...
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
"Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live."
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
Wait… something was lifted up… on a pole… that saved people from death? Death that entered their lives as a result of a nasty encounter with a serpent? Why does this sound so familiar???? So you’re saying when Nicodemus--a Pharisee, and therefore a Jew--who knows his Old Testament approaches Jesus in John 3, Jesus tells him,
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."
Just like that. Our salvation explained by the Lord himself to a Jew who snuck away to see him in the middle of the night...
AND THEN Jesus goes on to explain that that act of being lifted up is because, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” *mindblown*
May we on this Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross lift up our eyes to the one that heals us, forgives us, takes our burdens, transforms our suffering, all that we might have eternal life. With Him. He wants us to be with Him. Forever. Can you even imagine it? That great a love? I get sick of myself after a few days. But no… forever. He chooses us. And He chose to die. To let His Father’s will be done. Out of love for you, and out of love for me, and out of love for our enemies, and out of love for the person that least deserves it, and for the person that has made our lives miserable, and for the person who chews gum in mass, and for the unchaste, the addicted, the broken, the hateful, the vengeful, the numb. God so loved the world that He gave his only Son… and that only Son gave Himself freely, willingly, lovingly, and everlastingly to us. And managed to have the truth about all of these things put together in a book authored by many men over many centuries and appointed men to pass on that truth through teaching and preaching and the sacramental life… with ritual, and truth, and goodness, and beauty. *exhale*
It’s like it’s all true,