Gospel Reading: John 8:21-30
21 Again he said to them, "I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come." 22 Then said the Jews, "Will he kill himself, since he says, `Where I am going, you cannot come'?" 23 He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he." 25 They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Even what I have told you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him." 27 They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. 28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." 30 As he spoke thus, many believed in him.
Old Testament Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food." 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
Meditation: Do you know the healing power of the cross of Jesus Christ? When the people of Israel were afflicted with serpents in the wilderness because of their sin, God instructed Moses: "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live" (Numbers 21:8). The visible sign of the "fiery bronze serpent" being lifted up in the sight of the people reminded them of two important facts - sin leads to death and repentance leads to God's mercy and healing. The lifting up of the bronze serpent on a wooden pole points to Jesus Christ being lifted up on the wooden cross at Calvary where he took our sins upon himself to make atonement to the Father on our behalf. The cross of Christ broke the curse of sin and death and won pardon, healing, and everlasting life for all who believe in Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world.
Either for him or against him
While many believed in Jesus and his message, many others, including the religious leaders, opposed him. Some openly mocked him when he warned them about their sin of unbelief. It's impossible to be indifferent to Jesus' word and his judgments. We are either for him or against him. There is no middle ground and no neutral parties.
When Jesus spoke about "going away" he was referring to his return in glory to his Father in heaven. Jesus warned his opponents that if they continued to disobey God's word and to reject him as Lord and Savior, they would shut themselves off from God and die in their sins. Jesus' words echoed the prophetic warning given to Ezekiel that people would die in their sins if they did not turn to God and ask for his mercy and pardon (see Ezekiel 3:18 and 18:18). In every age God warns his people to heed his word before the time is too late to seek his mercy and forgiveness. God gives us time to turn to him and to receive his mercy and pardon, but that time is right now.
To sin literally means to miss the mark or to be off target. The essence of sin is that it diverts us from God and from our true purpose in life - to know the source of all truth and beauty which is God himself and to be united with God in everlasting joy. When Adam and Eve yielded to their sin of disobedience, they literally tried to hide themselves from God's presence (Genesis 3:8-10). That is what sin does - it separates us from the One who is not only "all-seeing" and "ever present" to us, but who is also "all loving" and "merciful" and eager to receive us with open arms of mercy, healing, and forgiveness. When God calls you to turn your gaze and attention towards him, do you try to hide yourself from his presence with other distractions and excuses that keep you from seeking him and listening to his voice?
The proof of God's love for us
Jesus went on to explain to people that if they could not recognize his voice when they heard his word, they would have the opportunity to recognize him when he is "lifted up" on the cross. Jesus pointed to the atoning sacrifice of his life on the cross as the true source of healing and victory over sin and reconciliation with God. The sacrifice of Jesus' life on the cross is the ultimate proof of God's love for us.
God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).To fail to recognize who Jesus is and where he came from is to remain in darkness - the darkness of sin, ignorance, and unbelief. But if we look to Jesus and listen to his word of life and truth, then we will find the way to lasting peace and joy with God. The Lord Jesus invites each one of us to accept him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Our time here in this present world is very limited and short, but how we live it today has consequences not only for the present moment but for our eternal destiny as well. Which direction is your life headed in right now?
"Lord Jesus, you came to set us free from sin, doubt, fear, and ignorance. Your word brings life, truth, and healing to mind, heart, soul, and body. Let your healing love free me from the blindness of sin and disbelief and from the destructive force of evil and wrongdoing. May I always find peace, joy, and strength in knowing your merciful love, truth, and goddness."
2 Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I
3 For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.
16 For the LORD will build up Zion, he will appear in his glory;
17 he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their supplication.
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD:
19 that he looked down from his holy height, from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die;
21 that men may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise
A Daily Quote for Lent: Aided by Christ's grace, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"God the Father said: 'I sent you One who would seek you out,
walk with you, and forgive you. So he had feet to walk with and
hands to forgive with. Thus, when he ascended after his
resurrection, he showed hands, side, and feet: hands with which he
gave pardon to sinners; and side from which flowed the ransom of
the redeemed.'" (excerpt from Sermon 16A,10)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.
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