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God's Irony: Death Symbolizes Life
Gospel Reflection: John 3:7b-15
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. John 3:14-15
I’m always struck by the story of Moses in the desert referenced by Jesus today: the Israelites responded to God’s gracious mercy and saving act with ingratitude and complaining. Snakes were set upon them, bit them, and many died. They cried out to Moses, remorseful, and God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it upon a staff. All who looked upon the serpent would live (Numbers 21:4-9).
God did not take away the serpents nor did he prevent the Israelites from being bit. Instead, while they were still suffering the consequences of their own sin, God made a pathway for them to be saved. What a great example Jesus uses to indicate the work he and his Father are doing!
Just as the serpent symbolized death to the Israelites, they were also saved by that same symbol. In a similar way the cross symbolized death to all those within the Roman realm. Yet it was through the cross, that symbol, that Jesus saved us, giving us eternal life, not death. God’s irony is consistent. The salvation of God, too, is consistent, if not perplexing to many (such as Nicodemus today).
Jesus redeemed us through his action on the cross. Yet before the cross was even on his horizon, Jesus proclaimed that which symbolized death as the method in which salvation would be offered!
Can we look at our own lives and find what symbolizes our pain, our suffering, our hurt? What names are engraved on our cross: relationship issues, abuse, bullying, trust issues, bad finances, mal-health, persecution…?
Be challenged today to look at that symbol the way Jesus looked at the cross and as the Israelites looked at the bronze serpent: God can bring salvation and redemption to me through that which symbolizes death to me. He is consistent and he is trustworthy; we know this because Jesus believed it, lived it, died it, and on the third day, he rose in it. His reality is meant to be ours, too.
Truly, Christ is risen. Amen, alleluia.
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