Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our Gospel reading for this week, from John 3:14-21, refers back to our Old Testament reading in Numbers 21. Here Jesus explains that he is the fulfillment of the bronze serpent in the wilderness.
In Numbers, because of the people’s sin, God sent venomous snakes to bite and kill them. He then set up a cure. If people looked at a bronze serpent, lifted up on a pole, they would be rescued. Jesus’ statements seem to clarify that the looking was done in faith, trusting that God would rescue them.
Jesus describes himself as the fulfillment of the serpent in the wilderness. He, being fully human, but without sin, is visibly the very thing which brings death. Every human, with only two exceptions recorded in biblical history, dies. We all know that will happen. It’s inherent in our humanity.
Jesus, however, is not like us in a very important regard. He has no sin. Therefore, death cannot hold him. When he is lifted up on a pole, killed to death, he appears for all the world to be our complete equal, suffering death as well.
Jesus has a different solution, though, one which doesn’t show up in our understanding. He will draw all people to him, giving eternal life to all who believe. This is the way God loves the world. He loves it in such a way as to create life through faith in Jesus.
This is precisely what Jesus will do. After a few years of walking with his disciples, teaching them, and bringing healing and hope to crowds of people, he will be lifted up. The one who is perfectly human will become accursed in death for all the descendants of Adam. The one who is perfectly divine will be raised from the dead, bringing life to all who believe him. This is the Gospel of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
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