13 Mar


(A biblical reflection on THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT [Year B], 14 March 2021)

Gospel Reading: John 3:14-21

First Reading: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23; Psalms: Psalm 137:1-6; Second Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10

The Scripture Text

And 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.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned; He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God. (John 3:14-21 RSV)

Throughout His life, Jesus had many encounters with Jewish religious leaders. He questioned them in the temple when He was twelve years old and debated with others in His mature years. Most rejected Him but one who did not was Nicodemus. He is not a major character of the New Testament and is mentioned only by John, but he does weave in and out of our Lord’s life. He was the inquiring one who came at night to express his faith in Jesus and ask about eternal life. Later in his circle of fellow Israelites, he counseled against condemning Jesus without understanding Him. Finally, he showed up at the grave site with spices for the body and help Joseph of Arimathea with our Lord’s burial.

Today’s Gospel contains Jesus’ response to a question asked by Nicodemus on their first meeting. He wanted information about baptism and the means to achieve eternal life.

Jesus responded openly to His newly made friend, explaining that He would be lifted-up as the bronze serpent was lifted-up by Moses in the desert to heal the people. Many will be healed by the cross in the same manner, Jesus told him. The rabbi, being an intelligent Pharisee, understood the cited passage from the Book of Numbers and no doubt long pondered the analogy.

To this day, a similar image – of a serpent or serpents entwined on a pole – remains a visible sign of physical healing. This symbol appears on hospitals, ambulances and the stationery of many health service organizations. We do not need reminding of the immense impact the cross of Jesus has for spiritual healing.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is shown as coming to earth to become fully human (the Word was made flesh; see John 1:14). That was the first phase of His mission. The second phase was to lift that humanness to eternal glory. He does not view death as a going down, but a going up. It is a skyward sweep rather than a crumbling into dust. This bold faith-filled concept should challenge us to plot the direction of our death. Like Jesus, we are born human and now we try to lift that humanness to glory through the rebirth of baptism and the eternal tug from the Savior on the cross.

In this Gospel, Jesus says that faith leads to eternal life. The Hebrew word for faith is emeth. It means strength, but a strength based on God, not on human security. This was really good news for Nicodemus and for us. Perhaps death for us means only defeat. Jesus smiles and reemphasizes that we are to think of it as a step up. The deeper our faith – our emeth – the better foundation we have or being lifted-up by the healing from above to the glory of the Kingdom of God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that by Your cross You have overcome my darkness and restored me to divine life. May I be like you, bringing light and life into a needy world. Lord, increase my faith. Amen.

Jakarta, 13 March 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

p.s. For more of biblical readings, please visit the site/blog A CHRISTIAN PILGRIMAGE


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