Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When a Pharisee Got Easter

Numbers 21:4–9
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,  to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” 
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. 

Psalm 107:17–22
17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways 
and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. 
18 They loathed all food 
and drew near the gates of death. 
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, 
and he saved them from their distress. 
20 He sent out his word and healed them; 
he rescued them from the grave. 
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love 
and his wonderful deeds for mankind. 
22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings 
and tell of his works with songs of joy. 

John 3:14–21
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. 

This last section of scripture is from John's gospel and an account in chapter 3 of Jesus's encounter with a Pharisee named Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a closet and quasi believer in Jesus.  Jesus shared with him the whole enchilada really, but Nicodemus probably didn't "get it" till a moment later in John's gospel.  Till Jesus was hanging on the cross, above the crowd.  Then I think the moment of clarity came to this Pharisee as John 3:14 echoed in his memory.  The Son of Man was lifted up on a cross to save the people just like the snake was lifted up to save the people in the wilderness.  Knowing the prophecies about the Messiah well as a Pharisee,  I think it started clicking for him: Isaiah 53:5-6 "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all"  And as Nicodemus was there with the crowds watching Jesus be crucified, he saw the fulfillment of Jesus's words.  That's the moment with Nicodemus went from private to public with his faith, as we see him actually asked for the body of Jesus and make sure that Jesus got a proper burial before the Sabbath.  He crossed over from death to life.  Praise God for His glorious work of redemption!

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