Numbers 21:4-9, John 3:14-21
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We read from v.14 of John chapter 3, but if you read what comes before it, you see today’s reading is a part of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, one of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. He visits Jesus at night for a conversation. Jesus speaks of being born from above, but Nicodemus is confused. This is what Jesus says based on the scripture: I know what I’m talking about because I came from heaven, and I came so that the world might be saved from condemnation, though there are many who prefer to remain hidden because “their deeds were evil”. It is a part of Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem for a Passover festival and in 2:13-3:21 Jesus challenges others to see in him God’s deliverance.
Today’s gospel reading begins with saying ‘just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,’. So, let’s see the Old Testament Book of Numbers first to see what it mean as Jesus brought it up here. In the Old Testament story, the Israelites lost patience with the hardships of life in the desert, they speak out against God and Moses again. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” they ask. “For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”
You know how patient and compassionate God is in their journey in the wilderness. When the Israelites complain that their drinking water is bitter,
God instructs Moses to sweeten it. When they grumble about their hunger, God provides them with manna. When they cry out in thirst, God instructs Moses to strike a rock and produce abundant water. When they despair for lack of meat, God causes flocks of quail to fly into their camp.