Fourth Sunday of Lent
II Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Ephesians 2: 4-10
The other day, I was watching a local celebrity who was promoting the opening of the John Ball Park Zoo this weekend and the zoo trainer was holding a large snake. Is there anyone here who does not like snakes? As the zoo trainer was talking about the snake, this celebrity always kept her distance, and if the trainer moved closer to her, she would move back out of the way. I do not blame her at all because I do not like snakes, and I would also keep my distance from a snake. Our readings bring us to know the joy of this day.
In our Gospel, Nicodemus is looking for that joy, but because he is a Pharisee he has to come to Jesus in the night and ask all his questions. In answering one of his questions, Jesus refers to the time that Moses lifted up a snake on a pole for the people to look at. Nicodemus being a good Jew, and someone well versed in the history of the Jewish people would have known what Jesus was referring to. Jesus has Nicodemus remember when the people were disobedient and God sent snakes to bite the people. The people repented, and Moses made a bronze snake and hung it on a pole. When the people looked at the bronze snake, they were healed and cured of any illness.
We want to live in joy, but we live as though there are snakes all around us! We avoid what we fear, the things that hurt, the things that can bite. We avoid our addictions, our broken relationships, and we run away and not deal with it. We need to do the very same thing the people of Israel did, and that looks whatever is troubling us right in the face and be healed.
I wonder what would have happened if our local celebrity would have stared that snake straight in the eyes, to see who would blink first. The Israelites stared at the very thing they feared, and they were healed. We can live in joy when we look at the very things we fear and now see the face of Christ, who has already won the victory for us.
We come to know joy, and it is possible as the writer John tells us, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son over to death, so who believes in him will not perish and will have eternal life.”
As we go through our week, may we come to know joy as we look in the eye those things we fear, those things that are undone, and not run but look to Christ, and believe for he has not come to condemn the world but to raise us up!