When I am Lifted up from the Earth

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Fifth Sunday of Lent

When I am Lifted up from the Earth

By Fr, Frederick Edlefsen


“And when I am lifted up from the earth,” says Christ, “I will draw all people to myself.”   That’s quite a claim.   Nonetheless, the claim continues to be fulfilled within Christ’s Body, the Church.  The claim also draws the hearts of many non-believers.  “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).  In other words, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”

The Book of Numbers tells of Hebrews wandering the desert en route to the Promised Land, led by Moses.  The Hebrews were complaining.  In punishment, God plagued them with “saraph serpents” (flying venomous snakes – sounds awful) which fatally bit many of them.  But God gave them an antivenom: “Make a saraph mounted on a pole, and if a bitten victim looks at it, he will recover” (Numbers 21:4-9).  

Biblical snakes hearken back to Genesis 3, when Satan tempts Eve.  The serpent’s fatal strike injected the sickness of sin and death.  But God gives Moses a remedy:  Make an image of the evil.  Raise it up on pole and look upon it.  Anyone who does so will be healed.  That’s a prophecy of the Cross of Jesus Christ. 

God’s plan of redemption is riddled with irony.  As St. Paul says, “He who knew no sin was made sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Satan mocked God by parodying God.  Christ mocked Satan by parodying Satan.  Satan duped Eve by promising life.  Christ duped Satan by promising death.  But with a twist:  Christ’s death raises the dead to life.  

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).


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