Our lessons this week raise the question of what we think we really need and remind us of what God has graciously provided for us. In our reading from Numbers, the people of Israel, in the wilderness with Moses, complain about conditions. They even whine about the food that God has provided for them. Angered, God sends poisonous serpents among them, and many die. But God also answers Moses’ prayer for mercy by providing a sign to be “raised up” for them to look on and live.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes that all of us (like the Israelites) have sinned, following our own desires and assuaging our fears in ways that diminish our lives and draw us away from God. Still, God sent Jesus Christ to offer himself for us and to be “raised up” so that we could be raised up with him. This eternal life in God is ours through grace, the “gift of God,” and not our own doing or the result of our works.
In John’s gospel, Jesus uses the image of Moses raising up the serpent-sign in the wilderness to describe what will happen to him. He will be “lifted up” on the cross and then on high with God so that “whoever believes in him might have eternal life.”
This gospel lesson contains that often quoted verse that encapsulates the Good News: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” You have been given an incredible gift of life with God in Christ that begins in your life now. How will you make the most of that life, asking for what you really need and making choices that allow you to live fully and freely?