Does the Gospel include God’s past deeds being exposed to the light as well our own?
Gospel Reading: John 3:14-21
For Sunday, March 18, 2012—Lent 4
The state of humanity is snake bit. The poison of the serpent has entered our collective blood stream, a metallic taste in our mouth, our whole body going numb, it attacks our nervous system, and it is getting hard to breath.
Address the Elephant?
The deep evangelical groves in my brain keep pulling me to address the elephant in this verse—John 3:16—but my need to debunk the narrow interpretations of ye must be born again, are more easily resisted, perhaps as a result of years since those battles were heated for me.
Now I don’t need to engage—I think we should all be born again, what ever you mean by it, rock on—I am more interested in the snake on a stick.
While I literally have eaten snake on a stick at both the Minnesota State Fair and the Beijing Night Market, this is something else entirely. There is some kind of dark/light magic going on in this verse. Nicodemus comes at night looking for something, but Jesus doesn’t give him a chance to say what it is.
Jesus either senses what he wants or knows what he needs. He tells Nicodemus, no one sees the kingdom of God with out being born from above. Nic takes the bait and goes into his, how can anyone be born after growing old line. Jesus fleshes out the metaphor, throws in the Spirit, water, wind. Nic’s head is reeling. “How can these things be,” he asks? Jesus says, “You are a teacher of the law, you know your Bible, and you should be able to understand.” Then Jesus provides this learned man a deep track from the scriptures.
Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him hay have eternal life.
Is Jesus messing with him? He didn’t get the born again metaphor, so Jesus moves on to this allusion to a crazy story in Numbers (see my post on the OT reading for the back story)? It is true that this lifting up of the serpent on a pole seems to be a clear reference to Jesus being lifted up on the cross, but aside from both Jesus and the serpent being lifted up on wooden things what else do they have to do with each other?
At the end of this book Jesus will be raised up on a cross where he will die and it is through that death and resurrection that all is reconciled, real and eternal life is possible. In Numbers 21 Moses makes a bronze serpent and places it on a stick and raises it high above his head. All of the people, who had been bitten by poisonous, fiery serpents, need only look up at it and they will have life. There is a clear correlation for sure, except for one glaring fact—God is the one who sent the poisonous, fiery serpents to bite and kill the Israelites. God provides Moses with a fix to save the people from the gruesome death God had inflicted on them.
So why does the author of John choose this scriptural story to illustrate how one gains eternal life? It is kind of a dark story. God gets so enraged that the people are complaining about the food that he sends poisonous, fiery serpents to kill them all. Only after they repent does God decide to save their lives by looking to an idol of the very thing God was using to kill them.
Nicodemus comes at night.
Jesus concludes, And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light so their deeds may not be exposed. Does this include both Nicodemus and God?
The Hardest Question
Does the Gospel include God’s past deeds being exposed to the light as well? As Jesus is lifted up, like the fiery serpent, does it draw all the venom out of the relationship between the created and the Creator?