MARCH 17 – WHEN I GROW IMPATIENT
DEVOTIONAL: Lent is a season of waiting. Like the people of God following Moses through the wilderness, I grow impatient. The constant reminders that Jesus is going to die wear on me, perhaps similarly to the ways in which miles and miles of walking, dry ground, heavy heat and miserable food wore on the people following Moses. After they spoke against the Lord and suffered the bites of venomous snakes, God told Moses that his followers could look to a bronze snake raised on a pole in order to avoid death. One might think of this image of the snake on the pole as foreshadowing Jesus, raised up on the cross — perhaps hoisted there in a way that might be saving.
The figure of Jesus on a cross is one that often manages to stop me in my impatient tracks. While I’d like to hurry through Lent and skip to the glorious resurrection of Easter, there is something about Jesus’ death that needs to be felt and experienced. The people of God surely felt pain when they were snake-bitten. They could turn their eyes to a raised, bronze snake and be reminded that God is not absent in the face of pain. As God’s people today know the pain of divorce, abuse, addiction, poverty, racism, gender inequality, depression and damaged relationships, we may turn our eyes to the image of Jesus on the cross and be reminded that we are not alone in our pain, that God is not absent in the face of pain, and that Jesus himself suffered through very human pain.
The grace of God alone lifts Jesus above Mount Gethsemane. The grace of God alone lifts the bronze snake above the poisoned heads of the people of Israel. And it is the grace of God alone that can lift us out of our impatience and into the painful darkness of Lent, that paradoxical, holy, uncomfortable celebration of the incomprehensibility of God and the realness of God’s presence.
SCRIPTURE: Numbers 21:4-9 (NRSV)
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against 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.’ Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.