Gaze upon Him and believe. JOHN: 3:14–21
By Allan Julien
In the Old Testament, Book of Numbers 21 we see the Israelites frustrated and impatient with God because of their tough journey to the Promised Land. They were ungrateful for all that God had rescued them from; they were ungrateful for the manna from Heaven provided for them to eat each day and they spoke against God and Moses.
For their ingratitude, the Old Testament book tells us that God sent fiery serpents among the people and their bite killed many Israelites. The people of God seeing their plight brought on by their own sin went to Moses, repented for being impatient and ungrateful to God and to Moses, and asked him to intercede for them that they may be saved from these ‘fiery serpents.’
In response to Moses’ intercession, God instructed him to make a fiery serpent, place it on a pole before his people and that anyone who is bitten and looks at it will live.
In Christian theology, ‘typology’ is the relationship of New Testament and Old Testament scriptures. It connects persons, events, and things in the Old to the figure of Christ in the New. As St Augustine so aptly puts it “In the Old Testament the New is concealed, in the New the Old is revealed.”
The fiery serpents that caused many of the people of God to die were as a direct result of their sins. The serpent on the pole was a constant reminder of what their sins caused…death.
In the gospel today, Jesus says to Nicodemus “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert…” (Jn 3:14). The typology here is that lifted up on the cross, Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, God’s Only Begotten Son, and the Saviour of the world, presents Himself that all men would gaze at the result of their sins, which is ‘deicide’ (the killing of God). And in looking upon Him whom they have crucified, would repent, and be healed from their sins.
God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The same God who responded swiftly to the repentance of the impatient and ungrateful Israelites and healed them, is the same God who responded to Nicodemus in today’s gospel and the same God who responds to all of us in telling us “For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.” (Jn 3:17).
On this fourth Sunday of Lent, Jesus reveals even more deeply that He has come to us as a merciful God whose first desire is to save us from our sins and to enthrone us in eternal life. He is calling us to gaze upon Him crucified and believe in His love, “So that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16).
So many of us view God as an overseer who daily looks for our transgressions just to highlight them in His notebook as He awaits our judgement day. The Gospel of John dismisses this notion of God.
Jesus’ own words to Nicodemus and to all of us dispel the idea that He has come to find us guilty…He has not! For He said, “No one who believes in him will be condemned” (Jn 3:18).
This gospel from St John does in fact bring out the truth and importance about our free-will in choosing to believe in the name of Jesus; in choosing light over darkness; in choosing good over evil; and in choosing eternal life over eternal death.
There is a daily choice for all of us to make. We can choose to stay in darkness and sin refusing to gaze at the crucified saviour and receive His mercy, or we can choose to look at love incarnate and believe that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life” (Jn 3: 16).
The gospel reflections for March are by members of the Leadership Team of the National Catholic Men’s Ministry. Allan Julien is the husband of Giselle and will celebrate 22 years of marriage in July of this year. He is also the proud father of a daughter of 18 and a son of 14. In addition to his family vocation, he is actively involved in the Chaguanas parish of St Philip & St James as a lay minister and a leader of the parish’s dynamic men’s Group.