Summary: Travelling in darkness can lead to serious consequences.
March 11, 2018
Reading: John 3:14-21
Snakes, Witches and Barbed Wire Fences
In today’s gospel reading we find Jesus enlightening Nicodemus the Pharisee by describing Moses lifting up a bronze serpent, as God directed him. All who were bitten by a poisonous snake that looked up and gazed upon the raised serpent were spared from death. See Numbers 21:6-9. This is a very important reference for today’s gospel reading.
Once again Moses was confronted by rebellious Israelites who “spoke against God and against Moses” in their discouragement over living conditions, as they journeyed from Mount Hor toward the Promised Land. God wasn’t very pleased with them and responded by sending fiery serpents among them. Many who were bitten died. Moses interceded in prayer for his people. God relented and instructed Moses to fashion a brass serpent on a pole and lift it up. All who were bitten and looked upon the bronze serpent, were spared.
Why is Jesus using this reading to enlighten Nicodemus? You see Nicodemus was a devout Pharisee, a practitioner of the “law of Moses”. The law could not save those bitten by a poisonous snake BUT by FAITH, those who looked up and gazed upon the brass serpent WERE saved. Did that bronze snake on a pole have any healing power whatsoever? NO! The power that healed was the power of the Almighty, Who responded to the FAITH exercised by those who obeyed His instructions.
While we are talking about Nicodemus, let’s look at another aspect of his encounter with Jesus. He came to Jesus by NIGHT. Why by night? Obviously, he did not want to be seen by anyone who may form any number of assumptions as to why he would want to talk to this man. Jesus.
Traveling in darkness creates a vulnerability, in and of itself. If you are running from God, travelling away from God in any fashion, it is as if you are running in total darkness. There is that vulnerability thing. Running in darkness means that you just might crash headlong into a stout tree; get tangled in a barbed wire fence or topple into a deep ditch or over a steep embankment.
When we sneak around in darkness, it is because we do not want anyone to see us or know what we are up to. A cheating spouse will seek dark back streets to meet in secret. Of course the thief prowls in darkness, so as not to be seen.
Let’s look at one more biblical account of travelling in darkness.
“Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.”
So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.” 1 Samuel 28:7-8
If you want to know how that worked out for Saul, turn to 1 Samuel 31:4-6
“Then Saul said to his armorbearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armorbearer, and all his men died together that same day.”
The bible sure talks a lot about DARKNESS/EVIL contrasting with LIGHT/TRUTH. We live in a place and time being consumed by darkness and evil. One has only to watch the evening news to understand that. What are we to do? Repeat WHAT ARE WE TO DO?
We start by walking in the light. We look up to Jesus the Christ, just as the befallen Israelites looked up upon a bronze serpent. We dwell on that well used Scripture: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” V 3:16
As the Israelites looked UP to see the bronze serpent on a pole (a symbol and not an object of worship), we need only to look UP to Christ, Our Savior.
We pray for all of mankind, that they will SEE the light – the TRUTH.
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. John 8:32
Let me close by sharing a long ago example and a very recent experience.
Years ago, as a police officer on the midnight shift, I was getting weary as daylight was trying to peek in. Sitting in a large parking lot waiting for my shift to end, I observed a man walking to work across the roadway. He stooped down and scooped up a newspaper at the real estate office and kept walking. I watched him morning after morning STEAL a newspaper. After a few days, I arrested him and issued a "promise to appear" notice rather that take him to jail. I was never called to testify so I have no idea what transpired at court. But as I say: "A thief is a thief!"