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Look up and be healed

Concordia Lutheran Church
Fourth Week of Lent 4 March 18,2012

Look and Be Healed
Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21


In these days, when spiritual healing is in greater need, may you always trust in the One lifted up, proof of God’s incredible love and desire to bringing healing to you life – and all lives poisoned by sin.

You want me to do what?

You find yourself sitting on the ground, leaning up against a large boulder. The pain is increasing, as is the warmth of your leg as it swells quickly, as it throbs. A headache is beginning to form, with the power to cause you to want to close your eyes, guarding them against the sun. You know if you stand up – you will simply crash to the ground again, for even while sitting you are dizzy.

You hear someone calling for help – and up rushes one of the older gentleman, one of the leaders of your expedition. He sees the snake, laying a few yards away, where you threw it after killing it, but not before it sung its fangs into your lower leg. The older man lifts up your robe, to see the maddening infection spreading up your leg.

He quickly gets your attending – not as easy, now that the poison is beginning to cause your mind to swim, and points to a hill in the distance – and he’s yelling at you – telling you to look to the man holding up a pole – with something glowing on it – reflecting the brightness of the son.

Look – he says – look and be healed!

Your mind maybe slipping away – but your attitude hasn’t improved any! You ask, “aren’t you going to suck the poison out of my wound?” He answers – “look – and be healed!”

Through the pain you hear his words – and they make now sense! Look at a bronze serpent – mounted high on a pole, and that will heal me? Really?

Don’t you have any anti-venom? Any anti-biotics? Some whiskey to pour over the wound?

The elder again – seeing the snakes poison really begin to affect you – points again – “look – and be healed!”

You are really starting to lose it now – you can’t comprehend how something – not within reach – could bring you healing – and you ask for someone else to go get Cherrie Gonzales – she’ll know what to do! The elder again is heard – those he’s holding you – but he sounds a hundred yards away – his words an echo – “Look – and be healed!”

You are getting weaker, and as you fall over – your eyes spot the glow on the hill, the serpent mounted high up a pole and lifted up – and something happens, a miracle really, as you feel coursing through you a power that destroys the poison, and brings an amazing strength back to muscles that had no strength seconds before…

You get up – and the elder says – now you get it – go find others who were bitten as you were – and get them to … you interrupt and say, “I KNOW – LOOK AND BE HEALED!”

What do they think the relationship is about

The nation of Israel makes little sense to me, for they saw God work to deliver them from Egypt. It is hard to imagine their mind set – as they journey to their new home, did they think God had done all that He did in rescuing them from Pharoah, to torture them in the desert? Did they realize His provision and care, that provided Meat and Manna and Drink in the desert? Instead of rejoicing in His presence, and what He provided on the journey, they complained and questioned him, ignoring what He had blessed them with, focusing on what they desired – and desired now. No one alive now would ever be so focused on this moment, forgetting what is promised for the future, and that He is present here and now?

I don’t think the world grasps God’s love any better today, than they did in Moses day, or in the days of the apostles. As we look at John’s record of Jesus life this morning, we see the best known, most recited verse in the New Testament – and possibly only Pslam 23’s “the Lord is my …..” is known by more people. Even as John proclaims the Father’s love, there is a need make clear God’s attitude towards the world, Here again verse 17 – the verse the early church called the Missio Dei,

17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

God’s primary mission is never judgment – its not needed, John will say – people will condemn themselves – but Jesus mission is to save them from that. Yet too many people think it is just the opposite, that we must save ourselves before God comes back to judge us all. They see us, as they saw Moses – as those who would judge them as well, rather than say to them – “look and be healed!”, they don’t see us being sent by Jesus, as the Father sent Him, to see the world saved, by His being lifted up!

When John talks of those whose actions are evil, whose actions are foul and rotten, there is a sad acknowledgement that they have judged themselves – by refusing to come into God’s light, into God’s glory. Instead – they cling to the darkness they find comfortable – they choose the pain of being snake-bit by sin, of allowing its poison to course through their lives, because they fear their sins are exposed.

How much of our news today doesn’t make sense – as people try to justify behaviors from greed and corruption, to sex outside of marriage, to alcohol and drug abuse and gossip and slander? Their justify their actions – not based on what they see God’s standard, but based on comparing themselves to others. It’s easy to make my sin look more righteous when I compare it to the world’s, its easier to justify ourselves when we compare ourselves to congress, or Hollywood, or those people in LA or the OC

John’s words about the world are so accurate – and so sad – “they love the darkness more than the light”

All the while scripture tells the world – “look and be healed”

He loved the world so much..
What a contrast –
It is magnetic
“if I am lifted up… I will draw..”
The venom of sin? The effects that rot our souls - Gone

Thank God that His light is stronger than the darkness!

For even as much as people will abandon everything in pursuit of their own sin, even as much as we comfortable in the poison that so pervades this world, even as we sacrifice that which we love – in pursuit of that which we desire, God’s love for His beloved is stronger. His desire for us is more powerful and the action His love compelled Him to – is more incredible, more costly, more glorious.

That is what the world needs to know – it is why the Father sent the Son, why Jesus was the one sent as John records Him saying,

32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12:31-33 (NLT)

It seems so simple – that the instead of looking up to the symbol of that which afflicts us the sin whose bite caused so much pain, we look up at the one who becomes our affliction, for as Paul wrote to Corinth,

21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)
Or as Isaiah prophesied,

5 But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. Isaiah 53:5 (MSG)

Look up!
Look and see the cross
Look and see the Lamb of God
Look and see the light of the gentiles, the glory of the people of God
Look up and know you are healed

We may not want to hear it, but we still struggle with that snake bite – each of us deals with the poison of sin still. It may be tiny in the eyes of the world, yet it is something we need to be healed of, a poison that gets down into our hearts, that pollutes our minds.

It’s time to look at the cross – to realize He was lifted up – and bore our sin – to look and be healed…

It’s time to look here – to our baptism – to look and see that we have been healed – and freed from that sin – it’s time to look and be healed…

It’s time to look here – to the altar – where we celebrate His sacrifice for us. The old liturgies of the early church had a phrase - This is the lamb of God, who has taken away the sin of the world – Blessed are those who are called to His supper…

The response to the priest’s statement was, “Lord – I am not worthy to receive you, but say the word and I will be healed”

Look to Him – abandon every thing else, and that sin that so easily ensnares us, and be healed.

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