When You Lift Up the Son of Man

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

You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
(John 8:23-24)

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.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from Him I tell the world.” They did not realize that He was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to Him.” Because He spoke this way, many came to believe in Him. (John 8:21-30)

Reflection

Jesus told his listeners: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM. . . ” (8:28). Earlier (in John 3:15), He had told them: “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.”

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 would they see the powerful significance of the cross of Jesus in their lives.

I used to ponder on the significance of the saraph — the symbol of a snake coiled around a cup that is seen in the signboards of drugstores. 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 fail to recognize that this is their only hope of salvation. The souls of those who do not look up to the cross of Jesus are truly in danger of dying in the poison of their sins.

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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