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Jesus said to Nicodemus: ‘Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’
Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just 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.’
Just 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.
In today’s reading Jesus refers to words from the Old Testament book of Numbers. In those ancient writings we read: The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live’. These words describe the way in which God will heal those rebellious Israelites who proved to be true in their faith. Jesus is drawing a direct parallel between Moses’ divinely ordained actions during the journey to the Promised Land and his own actions in the Gospel narrative. The moment would come when Jesus would be lifted up in order that true believers might come to know the joy of eternal life. But, as we know, Jesus being lifted up would mean his being crucified.
So many of us are poisoned by the words and actions of others. Our daily lives are often dominated by the pain, the anger and the despair that is inflicted upon us, and that we inflict upon ourselves. We create a perfect, but imaginary, world in which anyone who contradicts our utopian notions is seen as deserving our vengeance. The problem is, of course, that everyone’s ‘perfection’ is unique and cannot possibly coexist with others’. As we struggle with that existential reality the poison courses through our minds and we find ourselves increasingly distanced from God.
There are many ‘fake’ cures available to those whose well-being, both physical and mental, has been undermined. These ‘cures’ are often given the label: faith healing. But … before we spend large amounts of money on that which will only reinforce our paranoia and sense that only we are right … we need to consider the only true healing that is available to us … the healing that is based in true faith.
In the Old Testament, the troubled Israelites were healed by gazing on the serpent endued with the divine power to heal. Today we are offered a similarly certain source of healing … we are invited to gaze upon, and put our trust in, Jesus, the Son of God who was raised before our eyes on a cross, but who then conquered death for our salvation.
Let us pray for the strength to set the quack remedies to one side, in order that we might remain focused on the only one who can heal our damaged lives: Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Saviour.