In his famous conversation with the religious leader, Nicodemus, Jesus says, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (Jn 3:14).” The story of Moses mounting a figure of a serpent on a pole (Num. 21) is about the people of Israel dying from snake bites, but all those who looked upon the serpent that was lifted up were healed. Jesus was lifted up or glorified on the cross that all those who believe in him might be healed.
Later on in this passage the gospel writer makes it clear that belief is more than simply assent to a truth.
“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed (Jn 3:20).” If we are really to be healed by our belief in Jesus, our lives, our actions, must reflect that belief. Can those who look at our life see that we believe in Jesus’ saving act for us on the cross?
We are just days away from the start of the most important week in our church year. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, March 28. Twice we experience the gospels of the Passion of Jesus. On Palm Sunday this year we read Mark 14:1—15:47, and on Good Friday we read John 18:1—19:42. Even if we do not participate in person or online in worship services, we can take time to read and pray with these gospel accounts of Christ’s suffering and death for us. After praying with these Passion stories, we can affirm with our whole heart “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”
Jesus endured his suffering and death so that our hearts might be moved away from our sins to embrace God’s great love for us. Many years ago, David Meece sang a song that still speaks to me titled “We Are the Reason.” The chorus is, “We were the reason that he gave his life, we were the reason that he suffered and died. To a world that was lost he gave all he could give to show the reason to live.” May all of us know the reason to live — Jesus’ self-sacrificing love for us.