We hear Jesus in the Gospel of St. John today summarizing the story of Moses in the dessert with the serpents during the Exodus. It is one rich with many layers of meaning.
Perhaps one of the more significant ones is that the cause of the Israelite’s plight – their being attacked by the serpents – is that it’s a punishment from God. For what? Their disobedience. Given that, what is the proposed cure? Go and look at the serpent mounted on a pole. While it doesn’t sound like the kind of health care plan we would be interested in, it is not meant to remedy the symptom, but rather address the cause. An act of disobedience can only be countered by an act of obedience. However, many people refused to do it. Those that did ended up being cured. Those that didn’t, who persisted in their disobedience, perished.
Fast forward to the Gospel. Jesus says that God is favorably disposed toward the salvation of His people. He has done everything to save us…except the one thing He can’t do…the one thing no one can do for us…the one thing we have to do for ourselves: We have to believe and reflect that belief in our lives. Notice, Jesus says God is not in the business of condemning anyone. He doesn’t have to. We take care of that ourselves. He is in the business of saving people, including us.
Jesus, as the perfection of the Old Testament foreshadowing, is the perfect sacrifice raised up on the cross for our salvation. He’s done what we could not do. He now waits for us to not earn, buy, or merit this gift beyond our capacity to pay, but simply to ratify it in our lives by the manner of our lives. Just like for the Israelites in the dessert, the choice remains for us today. Will I accept God’s gracious invitation and make His grand plans for my salvation realized…or will I persist in my own ways and pass up this greatest of gifts. Like then, so it is now: the choice is ours.
Fr. Eric Orzech