Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30
Today's readings show us as the Cranky People of God. In the first reading from Numbers, the Israelites are being led to safety and salvation, out of exile in Egypt and toward their homeland. The journey is long and frustrating. Their complaint? “We are disgusted with this wretched food!” Perhaps a little more gratitude would have been in order. But the Numbers reading reveals a wonderful story of healing. The people are being plagued by serpents who bite “and many of them died.” When Moses prays for the people, God tells him make an image of a serpent and mount it on a pole. Anyone who looked up at it would be healed. All they had to do was gaze upon it, to trust in God and they would be healed.
In the gospel, the Pharisees challenge Jesus and misunderstand what he is saying. He talks about salvation and about being saved from their sins. “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM...,” he tells them. For us to be saved, Jesus has to be lifted up, to be hung from a cross. Like the Israelites, we must gaze up and believe if we are to be saved.
It sounds so simple, to look on God and believe. But we resist. Our lives are about logic, not hearts and we can't afford to place too much trust in a God who might disappoint us. We get cranky with the God who loves us to deeply, demanding that he rid our lives of difficult people and painful situations.
But it's there in the pain and the frustration of our lives that Jesus invites us to be healed. He asks us to look up at him and trust and to realize that he is joining us in the pain of our lives. He takes our place in the pain and gives us the healing love we need so desperately. It is in the depths of our pain that Jesus brings us the healing we need and the love we crave. We have only to look on him and trust.
By Maureen McCann Waldron