Scripture: John 3:13-17 (alternate reading: Luke 7:31-35) 13 (Jesus answered) "No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
When the people of Israel were afflicted with serpents in the wilderness because of their rebellion and sin, God instructed Moses: "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live" (Numbers 21:8).
The bronze serpent points to the cross of Christ which defeats sin and death and obtains everlasting life for those who believe in Jesus and in his victory on the cross.
The result of Jesus "being lifted up on the cross" and his rising and exaltation to the Father's right hand in heaven, is our "new birth in the Spirit" and adoption as sons and daughters of God. God not only redeems us, but he fills us with his own divine life and power that we might share in his glory.
There is no greater proof of God's love for his fallen creatures. "To ransom a slave God gave his Son" (an ancient prayer from the Easter vigil liturgy). God sent his Son to free us from the worst of tyrannies – slavery to sin and the curse of death. Jesus' sacrificial death was an act of total love in self-giving.
Jesus gave himself completely out of love for his Father. And he willing layed down his life out of selfless love for our sake and for our salvation. His death on the cross was both a total offering to God and the perfect sacrifice of atonement for our sin and the sin of the world. John tells us that God's love has no bounds or limits (John 3:16). His love is not limited to one people or a few chosen friends.
His love is limitless because it embraces the whole world and every individual created in "his image and likeness". God is a persistent loving Father who cannot rest until all of his wandering children have returned home to him. Saint Augustine says, God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. God gives us the freedom to choose whom and what we will love and not love.
Jesus shows us the paradox of love and forgiveness and judgment and condemnation. We can love the darkness of sin and unbelief or we can love the light of God's truth, goodness, and mercy. If our love is guided by truth, goodness, and that which is truly beautiful, then we will choose for God and love him above all else.
What we love shows what we prefer.
Do you love God who is the supreme good above all else? And do you seek to put him first in all your thoughts, cares, choices, and actions? God's love has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
Do you allow God's love to purify your heart and the way your treat others? Do you allow God's love to transform your mind and the way you think of others?
Do you allow God's love to conquer every unruly passion and addiction that would enslave you to sin and harmful behavior?
The Holy Spirit gives us his seven-fold gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence for God and his ways, and a holy fear in God's presence (see Isaiah 11) that we may live God's way of life and serve in the power and strength of his enduring love and mercy.
Do you thirst for new life in the Spirit?