The Saraph and the Cross

John 8: 21-30
Num 21: 4-9, / Psa 102

When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am He…
(John 8:28)

We need resistance to get across
Life’s trials, problems and pressures;
Better to bear the weight of the Cross
Than the fat of the world’s pleasures.

Again He said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’ Then the Jews said, ‘Is He going to kill Himself? Is that what He means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ He said to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He.’ They said to Him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One Who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from Him.’ They did not understand that He was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am He, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the One Who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him.’ As He was saying these things, many believed in Him. (John 8: 21-30)

Reflection

Earlier, Jesus had told the Jews: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15). The followers of Jesus did not understand that He was predicting His own crucifixion, being “lifted up” on the cross in Calvary. Even when He cited the bronze serpent that Moses made for the Israelites to gaze up to in order to be saved from snake bites (Numbers 21:4-9), His words remained a mystery to them. It was only after the apostles had been enlightened by the Holy Spirit in Pentecost that they saw the powerful significance of the cross of Jesus in their lives.

Those who do not look up to the cross of Jesus, the symbol of our salvation, are truly in danger of dying in the poison of their sins. It is because they prefer to look upon their worldly concerns, which separate them from the true Life in Christ.

I used to wonder about the significance of the saraph — the symbol of a snake coiled around a cup that is seen in the signboards of pharmacies. Someone once told me it symbolized the venom from the snake which is the only antidote for snake bites. Now I believe the symbol more appropriately recalls the salvation of the Israelites in the desert, who were bitten by poisonous snakes because of their complaints against God and Moses. Ironically, from the deadly poison also comes the healing antidote.

Pharmacies provide the medicines that heal our physical ailments. (“Pharmacy” comes from the Greek word pharmakon, which means “poison”.) In the same way, the cross, which many regard as punishment for sins, is actually the source of spiritual healing and salvation. Those who prefer to “belong in the world” do not want to have anything to do with the cross, because they do not want to face up to their sins. They do not see that their cross is really their only hope of salvation.

Thank You, Jesus for giving us the inspiration and the wisdom to persevere in the hope of eternal life with you. These make our crosses in life easier to bear. Amen.

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