Lent Reflection – Fourth Sunday

In the dark of night…
a light.
In the quiet time…
a word of wisdom.
In the midst of doubt…
a truth.
In a broken world…
a saviour.

Come, Son of God,
lead us into light.
Come, Lamb of God,
take away our sin.
Come, Son of God,
be lifted up.

Reading: John 3:14-21

In the middle of the night Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a leader, comes to Jesus to hear what he has to say. The first thing that Jesus speaks of is being born again (or being ‘born from above’) and he challenges Nicodemus for his lack of understanding, but then he moves on to recall the story of Moses lifting up a bronze image of a snake to cure people who have suffered snakebites and uses it to illustrate who he is.

In the UK we’re not greatly aware of snakebites. We only have one venomous snake – the Viper (or as I’ve generally known it, the Adder) – but for many people snakes still cause a fearful reaction. That reaction is much more intense in places where snakebites are a significant risk and a significant threat. So the story of Moses saving people from a plague of snakes would have been much more vivid.

But what we see in the story that Jesus alludes to (from Numbers 21:4-9) is a progression of events that parallel what Jesus does. It begins with people rebelling against God. It may seem just like grumbling and moaning – and we all do that at times, don’t we? – but the significance is that they spoke against God (Numbers 21:5). The result of their rebellion was things went wrong. The writer suggests that God sends the snakes, which would have been seen as a punishment. But the important part is that by not living as they should, the people are lost. And they are looking for help.

And then Moses prays for them. He speaks up for the grumblers and the rebels. He bends God’s ear for the outcasts. He does this because they have recognised their mistake. In theological terms they have repented.

And God responds. He forgives. Moses is instructed to raise a sign. The sign is a bronze snake mounted on a pole. It is lifted up so that people can see God’s forgiveness and protection. This, Jesus says, is his mission. To be lifted up to show God’s forgiveness, God’s love.

John 3:16 is perhaps one of the most quoted verses of the Bible, but I sometimes wonder if the next verse shouldn’t be where our focus is. John 3:17 says ‘God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ He doesn’t come to judge, or to punish, but to save. He comes to put things right.

What would ‘putting things right’ look like for you? For you personally? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to stop rebelling against? Over the coming week reflect on this and pray for God to put things right in you.

Lord, your light has flooded the world;
but we have turned away, preferring darkness.
Lord, you have lifted up your Son that we might be forgiven;
but we have turned away, preferring to remain in our sins.
Lord, you have offered us eternal life;
but we have turned away, preferring the pleasures of earthly life.

Forgive us, O Lord, as we bow our heads before you.
We do not turn away any longer.
We lift our faces to seek your light.
We lift our eyes to see your Son.
We lift our hearts to live in you, and for you, for ever.

from ‘Roots on the Web