Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Numbers 21:4-9
John 8:21-30

Each year as we get closer to Holy Week I find that the readings are a little more complex than those we read in the early weeks of Lent. The texts from John’s Gospel ask a little more of me. John writes in a register which I feel requires me to hold together several layers of meaning at once.

Today’s first reading from Numbers is the story of the people being bitten by snakes in the wilderness. Moses fashions a bronze serpent, holds it up and whoever looks upon it lives. Whatever we might think of the likelihood of this happening, the point the story is the power of God to heal and save.

Moses’ holding up the serpent links directly with John’s important theological idea of Jesus being ‘lifted up’ on the cross. Jesus is presented as the one who brings healing through suffering and glory. When Jesus is lifted up people will see that his claims about his close relationship with his Father are true.

In today’s Gospel the Pharisees are determined to trap Jesus. The Pharisees are studiers of the Law in all its beauty and power. They want to see the way ahead, but just can’t. They take Jesus literally when he speaks. This isn’t quite enough.

Jesus changes tack and speaks of his relationship with his Father. In the most intimate of language we hear that Jesus and the Father are one and that Jesus does ‘what pleases him.’ The Pharisees still can’t understand.

‘what the Father has taught me is what I preach;
he who sent me is with me,
and has not left me to myself,
for I always do what pleases him.’

Doing what pleases God is a hard daily task. The Jesuits have a helpful way of looking at this and speak of ‘wanting to want what God wants’. I can manage this.

How do you hear Jesus’ words?