And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15 (NRSV)
This story begins back in Numbers. Israel once again is grumbling, voicing their anger against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” (21:5) God, in his response, sent poisonous snakes into their midst, and people began dying. It was not long before the people became repentant and came to Moses seeking God's forgiveness. God's told Moses to create a bronze snake on a staff and raise it for the people to see. Whenever someone was bitten, they could look upon this image in belief and be healed. Notice that God did not remove the poisonous snake but offered them a way to be saved.
Jesus was lifted upon the cross that day long ago for our poisonous snakes -- our sins. Like with the snakes, he did not remove sin from around us but offered us a cure. By looking on the cross in belief, we are saved—more than that; we are given the promise of eternal life. We also may conquer death because of Christ. While at no cost to us, this salvation came at a significant price. There is only one answer to why Jesus would do this, his love for us.
There's a gospel song by Issac Watts not in the United Methodist Hymnal, called "At the Cross,” here are the lyrics.
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine—
And bathed in its own blood—
While the firm mark of wrath divine,
His Soul in anguish stood.
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my self away
’Tis all that I can do.
Loving God on this Holy Saturday, we lift our eyes to the cross. We give thanks for the tremendous price paid for our salvation and the promise of everlasting life. Please help us reject the sin around us and keep our sights focused firmly on you. We ask these things in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.