Jesus lifted up as symbol of hope for mankind

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 17, 2006

During their first semester of graduate school, therapists,philosophers and clergy in training are posed with the followingquestion: “Is humankind basically good or evil?”

Despite news reports of wars, violence, child molestations,embezzlement, and a seemingly unending list of crimes, we’re stillasking the question.

Today, as Easter sunrise services mark the end of Lent, and asChristians all over celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, a certainpassage of scripture encapsulates the meaning of Easter and endsthe debate.

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Early in Jesus’ ministry, He spoke at night with a religiousleader named Nichodemus. He pointedly looked at Nichodemus andsaid, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Sonof Man must be lifted up.” (John 3:14).

Now this statement may not mean much to us now, but toNichodemus Jesus spoke of something with which he was intimatelyfamiliar. Jesus spoke of the Israelite exodus from 400 years ofslavery in Egypt in Numbers, chapter 21.

The Israelites had been walking through the desert surviving onmana and quail from heaven. They had seen unspeakable miracles. Butthey were growing restless. One day they accosted Moses andchallenged him. “Why have you led us out of Egypt to die in theWilderness?” they asked.

Their question evidenced their rebellion, distrust, and hatredtoward God. Consequently, God sent venomous snakes among the campto punish his chosen people. Many were bitten and several died.

The Israelites confessed their sin and Moses prayed for them.God commanded Moses to construct a bronze snake and to place itupon a pole. Moses did so and, according to Numbers 21: 9, “whenanyone bitten by a snake looked at the bronze snake, he lived.”

So when Jesus spoke with Nichodemus, he was telling him quiteplainly. Humanity is not forward moving and good. Even the “best ofus,” respected religious and community leaders like Nichodemus,have rebelled against God.

Despite all of our best efforts to improve society, we have all”gone each to his own way.” We have been bitten with the poison ofour own choices.

But God, in his compassion made a way for us. Jesus, being invery nature God, wrapped in humanity like the snake of bronze, waslifted up on pole. On an old rugged cross, he died for us.

But Christ was not only lifted up on the cross in defeat. He wasalso lifted up during the ascension.

Today, Scripture tells us that he is still high and lifted up.And his invitation remains to us as it did to Nichodemus and theancient Israelites: “All who look to Christ may live.”

Write to Keith Stovall at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to