Tuesday 31st March 2020
5th Week of Lent
Num. 21:4-9; Ps. 102(101):2-3,16-18,19-21; Jn. 8:21-30 (Ps Wk I)
God’s cue for those who were bitten by the snakes seems very simple: they were to look at the bronze likeness of the serpent, an effigy, which Moses set up on a pole. But there is much more to it than that. When Jesus quotes this passage to refer to the Son of Man (Jn.3:13-15), he concludes by saying: “so that everyone who believes may have life in him.”
In commenting on Jesus’ death on a cross, John quotes Zechariah, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced” (Jn. 19:37, Zech. 12:10). Zechariah does not refer to the serpent; the only thing in common with the story in Numbers is “looking upon”.
Whatever Zechariah meant, John’s use of “looking upon” demands a more in-depth understanding than a mere disinterested looking: it must be a looking with faith. So too we may assume that in Numbers it was not a mere casual “looking” at a lifeless effigy that was intended, but a looking with faith and hope towards God, who could save them from their affliction. From this, we may learn that our looking at the crucifix or the Eucharist must always be an act of deep reverence, full of faith, hope and love.
Lord Jesus, whenever we look upon the crucifix, may we find the healing that we long for in faith, hope and love. Amen.