Come into the Light

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, across the parted Red Sea, and as they wandered in the desert they became impatient. And they speak against Moses and God.

Tick tock! Time’s a-wasting! Let’s get there already. Come on, Moses, do you even know where we are going? Maybe we need a new leader, a better leader. You and this God of yours have led us into the desert and now you seem to be in no hurry to do anything but wander around! There’s no food and no water. This manna is disgusting. You think it’s a gift from God? Worthless. —Does your God even know the way? It’s time to do something. Moses, maybe your time’s up. Time for a new leader with a new god who can get us out of this wilderness.

Suddenly, things get even worse. They have turned against God and Moses, and God sends fiery serpents among the people. They are getting bitten and dying, and they realize what they have done. “We have sinned.”

Impatient, ungrateful, independent, willful…they turned away. We do too.

Year after year we celebrate Easter, God, but have you seen the news? When is your kingdom coming? Do you even know the way? Day after day you expect us to live on daily bread. Same ol’ manna. We are tired of it. You know, maybe it’s time to take matters into our own hands, do things our way.

Impatient, ungrateful, independent, willful…we turn away. And we get bitten by the figurative snakes of this world and are dying, and realize we need God. Like a child in a wrestling match who finally cries “Uncle”, we cry out, “Enough! I can’t take this any longer!”

The people of Israel did. They came to Moses and begged for him to pray to the Lord that he take away the serpents!” And Moses prayed to God, but he didn’t take away the serpents. Instead, he gave them a cure. “Make a fiery serpent out of bronze and set it on a pole. When someone is bitten, if they look at the serpent on the pole, will live.”

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

We have all been bitten. God hasn’t taken away the serpents; God gave us a cure. Look, here, where the Son of Man is lifted up. Look at Jesus lifted up: on the cross, at his resurrection, in his ascension. The word for lifted up, hypsuo has a deeper meaning. The first definition is “to raise to the very summit of opulence and prosperity” and the second is “to exalt, to raise to dignity, honor, and happiness.” To glorify. “In John, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension are all understood as one (O’Day/Hylen)” hypsuo. The Son of Man, lifted up, is the Son of Man exalted. Christ lifted up is Christ glorified.

And whoever believes, whoever looks up and sees, may have eternal life – not someday, not in the by and by, not in the hereafter, NOW. Remember that the Israelites were impatient. Let’s get there already, wherever there is – you promised life’s gonna be good there. Let’s stop wandering around and go already. But God is eternal. The Psalmist says, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night (Psalm 90:4).” God is beyond the constraints of time. “Eternal life” for John doesn’t mean life that lasts forever, it is life with God.

“God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world,” not to be a serpent and bite us, “but that the world might be saved through him.” God sent the Son into the world to raise him up. The light has come and been raised.

“This is the judgement,” says John, “the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light…But the one who does what is true comes to the light.”

Impatient, ungrateful, independent, willful…we have turned away. And we have been bitten by the proverbial snakes of this world and are dying. We need God.
When we cry out, “Enough! I can’t take this any longer!” When we are ready to change, when we are ready to leave the darkness behind and come into the light. Look and believe; God loves you so much that he sent his Son to be lifted up for you. Come into the light. Amen.