John 3: 14 – 18
Jesus said to Nicodemus: 14‘Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
So we left it yesterday with Moses lifting up the bronze serpent on a pole in the wilderness to take the sting out of the Israelite poison snake bites during their plague of serpents. They were blaming God and complaining about their lot, but in fact they ended up blaming themselves. And the bronze serpent lifted up on the pole took their blame away.. God had saved them. Did you identify the connection with Jesus? Of course it’s plain if you read the first verse of the bible reading. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Jesus was lifted up on the cross to take the blame and guilt and low self-esteem of human beings. I bet the Israelites in the wilderness did not immediately feel their guilt had been taken away or that everything had just gone back to normal after the seprents disappeared. After all, many Israelites died as a result of the plague. I expect they felt, amongst other things, shock, anger, confusion and doubt. But following Moses and the bronze serpent gave them a way out of the vicious circle they were burying themselves with and a hope that the future could be different. A new normal! A different set of values where they were content with what they had, saw the hand of God in what they did and the forgiving love of God in who they were. That smacks of the beginnings of eternal life to me.
In our own plague I haven’t actually heard many people blame God. I have heard a lot of people blaming the Government, or the poor social distancing of the people they meet, or Chinese food hygiene or even a few, the Americans. And I have heard one or two (including myself) blaming themselves and Western expectations of standard of living enabling the virus to grow and spread remarkably quickly. Blame is corrosive and dehumanising And God is anything but dehumanising. He actively sought out humanity to share in the mess we make for ourselves, when he sent his Son Jesus. when Jesus was lifted up on the cross (like the bronze serpent on the pole), he’s showing us a direction to face in if we want to work through the blame and the guilt, the anger and the low self-esteem, not just for you and me but for the whole world, as it says in verse 17.
And if we claim that now, then like the Israelites in the aftermath of their plague of serpents, we have a way out of our own plague that has a direction and a meaning and allows us to recover with a new hope. A new normal. That’s the beginnings of eternal life today. What might that mean for you?
O Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of the living God,
set your passion, cross and death
between your judgement and our souls,
now and in the hour of our death.
Grant mercy and grace to the living,
rest to the departed,
to your Church peace and concord
and to us sinners forgiveness,
and everlasting life and glory;
for, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
you are alive and reign,
God, now and for ever.
Amen. Collect for None
The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black
We watch him as he labours to draw breath
He takes our breath away to give it back,
Return it to it’s birth through his slow death.
We hear him struggle breathing through the pain
Who once breathed out his spirit on the deep,
Who formed us when he mixed the dust with rain
And drew us into consciousness from sleep.
His spirit and his life he breathes in all
Mantles his world in his one atmosphere
And now he comes to breathe beneath the pall
Of our pollutions, draw our injured air
To cleanse it and renew. His final breath
Breathes us, and bears us through the gates of death.
If you would like to join us for Evening Prayer tomorrow (Wednesday) it is at 5.00pm
The link is:
The times for Evening Prayer for the rest of the week are as follows:
Sunday worship to be confirmed later in the week but Evening Prayer will be at 6pm on Zoom.