Dear Friends in Christ
In the course of his late-night conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus makes reference to a highly symbolic story from the Old Testament. When Edom denied God’s people permission to pass through his land on the way back to Canaan, the Promised Land, and God instructed Moses not to fight him. The Israelites were far from being impressed at being forced to undertake a long and arduous journey going in the opposite direction to their destination and grumbled bitterly. As punishment for their rebellion God sent venomous serpents among them and many died. Repenting of their rebellious hearts, they begged Moses to help them. In response to his prayer, God told him to make a bronze serpent and raise it high on a pole, promising that if those who had been bitten looked up at the serpent raised on the pole, they would live. This incident was a prophetic reference to the cross of Jesus Christ. In the same way that Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Son of Man was lifted up on the cross, and everyone who believes in him will live.
St. Paul and John taught that the One who had no sin became for us a worm, a serpent and sin so that we might be reconciled to God and become the righteousness of God. Underpinning and overarching this revelation is the simple but profound truth that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. This is the Good News. This is the kerygma, the basic proclamation of the gospel.
The simple message that God is love and showed his love by sending his Son has the power both to transform our own lives as part of our on-going conversion and also to transform our world. This is the message of eternal life to which we bear witness. The greatest symbol of love isn’t the heart but the cross, because while every heart will one day stop beating. The cross of Christ is an eternal, infinite testimony that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.