(The fourth Sunday in Lent is often kept as Mothering Sunday, and there is a dialogue sketch on that theme here.)
“As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” These words from John’s gospel may seem a puzzle (John 3:14-21). They come at the end of Jesus’ private conversation with the Jewish Pharisee, Nicodemus. It helps to look back to a story from the wilderness wanderings, about poisonous snakes (Numbers 21:4-9). Moses commanded the people to make a bronze snake, put it on a pole, to offer a cure to those bitten.
It may seem a strange idea, but you can see some reasons for it:
- it showed the need for faith, to believe in the cure.
- it required action according to the instructions, to take given cure.
Jesus picks this up in the gospel (in conversation with Nicodemus). He, too, must be lifted up on the cross to gather people, who will either take advantage of his sacrifice, or refuse to associate with it.
In many Churches a cross marks a gathering point. It may be on top of the building, or a processional cross carried at the beginning of a service, or one placed at the centre of the building.
It is just a symbol, but is a powerful reminder that Christians are the people of the Jesus who was crucified. But do we want to be family? Do I have to belong? There are different ways of belonging, but the test becomes admitting to, or refusing, Jesus. Banners, and badges have always been used to gather those with an allegiance.
Jesus victory is not the sort that has everybody wanting to say, “I was there,” “I was with Him”. It leaves us the choice. Who am I with? Do I want to belong? Nicodemus obviously finds it hard, though he will work through it all, and believe. (see John 19:39)