“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.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (John 3:14-21)
Back on Tuesday of this week I said we would look for where snakes as a metaphor might appear again. But I’m guessing you didn’t that I would be here, in the well-known John 3:16 verse, that is preceded by the verse about snakes. Just as the Hebrews in the desert needed to believe in the healing power of the raised up image of the snake, just as we need to believe in Jesus as God’s Son. But we often think about Jesus coming into the world and focus on the believing in Jesus that we forget to pair that action with Jesus being “lifted”, meaning crucified. But that is one of the end focuses of the season of Lent.
The gospel of John is rich in spiritual images, symbolism and metaphors. The snake being lifted up as Jesus was. God sending Jesus into the world. And Jesus as light coming into the world, and the unbelievers as people love darkness rather than light; and wanting to hide their evil deeds in darkness rather than exposing their lives to the light. A caution though – one can put too much emphasis on light versus darkness. It is not an issue of dark colors versus light colors, but seeing clearly versus hiding away so that one is not discovered and one’s deeds are not discovered.
I like metaphors very much; used well they illustrate complex issues and spark our imaginations. But metaphors, no matter how well composed, are not absolutes. We use metaphors to help us understand, but once we understand we need to set aside the metaphor and use what the true and deepest meaning is.
It is my hope and prayer this Lenten season that your faith, beloved reader, will deepen and grow bringing clearer understandings to your Christian and spiritual life. Selah!