FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS
With their patience worn out by the journey, the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And 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.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
Psalm 78:1BC-2, 34-38
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,
When he killed them, they sought for him; they repented and sought God earnestly. They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer. But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not true to his covenant. Yet he, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; often he restrained his anger, and did not stir up all his wrath.
Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
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.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Yesterday we talked about the importance of forgiveness and today we discuss the forgiveness of God. God’s love for us is full of compassion. Though God is always good and deserves our love, gratitude and obedience, we forget Him, turn our backs on Him, and blatantly disobey. He could destroy us in a moment yet he bears with us. He helps us. In this way, it is no longer to our credit that we live, but it is only to God’s mercy. Because of God’s glorious forgiveness, we are given not only life but also eternal life.
When we think about the disobedience of the Hebrews in the desert and the serpent on the cross, we see how God was revealing the true Messiah. All the people were vulnerable to being bitten by the serpents. All had sinned. All deserved death. But God provided a solution. They only had to look to the cross in faith believing that they would be saved from the bite of the serpent and they would not die.
If Jesus took the form of a servant and did not regard equality with God to be exploited, how much more should we fallen creatures adopt an attitude of subservience and humility toward God and live a life of repentance, grateful for the forgiveness of God for even our hidden sins, and his heart of mercy toward us?
No matter what we have done, nothing is greater than the mercy of God who would die for our sins to give us eternal life. What more can we do for God than to accept that most gracious gift and help others to receive it too?