Road trips. Some of us love 'em! Some of us hate 'em. But I'm pretty sure we've all been on one just as I'm sure you've gotten lost along the way or worse - you've forgotten your mapquest directions! So like the wise individual that you are, you stop, and ask for directions. Only when you got them, the directions were either unclear, the person wasn't from the area and gave you a butchered go-right-go-left, the person while confident led you somewhere else entirely, or you got perfect directions! When you're travelling and out of the familiar, you're definitely at the mercy of anyone! Thank the Lord for GPS' right?! (Sometimes!)
Our life is most like a road trip before we come to know the Lord. We have a desire to go in a particular direction, we make a plan, but somewhere along the way we get lost and the person we asked instructions from sent us on a detour that led right to Our Father, God. How amazing?! While our encounters may seem simple enough, the actual getting there may be the road trip for a few of us. Now that we've "arrived" and we know the way, are we careful in giving others the directions to "The Way"? Are we applying the care and consideration that we would like had we been on a real journey and gotten lost?
Upon reading today's reading, John 3 and 4, I thought a lot about our witness. In John 3, Jesus is having a chat with Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee who was obviously overwhelmed with curiosity and anxiety when he snuck away in the night to question Jesus. He had to get answers! After confessing to Jesus that he and the other Pharisees knew that He was from God from the miracles He's done, Jesus said something that would cause an eye-opening discussion, a discussion that impacts us today! Jesus says in John 3:3, "...no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." But that's not the part that hit me! The part that hit me like a brick followed Nicodemus' "huh" moment. Jesus says in John 3:10, "You are Israel's teacher and do you not understand these things?" Wow! This is not just about the "concept" of being born again but as a "giver of directions" Jesus was questioning his "sense of direction"! We say we know how to lead people toward Christ, but do we "teachers of the children of God" know how to get them there?! We should! Jesus goes on to say in verses 11 and 12 that "we (Jesus and the teachers) speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you (teachers; us) people do not accept our testimony." There we have it! Some of us do not accept the directions we've been appointed to give! Powerful! These would be the people who have an idea how to get someplace but couldn't really tell ya how. In order to accept, we first must research the destination, familiarize ourselves with it, and have confidence that it's actually there! The other point to make is, how can we see Him in our lives, testify to others that He's there, and yet not accept His presence in our lives?
At this particular time in history, Nicodemus as a Pharisee was directing people to The Laws, teaching that obeying them would bring them life and inclusion. With his arrival, Jesus brought a new order! Under the old order of things, the people were held to The Law and it brought death them. It was inevitable! Trying to follow The Laws to the letter was causing some to become distracted by it, losing faith in God and putting more effort into not messing up. Have any of you felt like that? Well God provided a remedy through His Son, Jesus. He tells Nicodemus in verses 14 and 15 that "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Aha!
What about this snake that Moses lifted up? And why was Jesus comparing Himself to it? In Numbers 21:1-9, the Israelites, still in the desert wandering on their never-ending road trip, were travelling around Edom when they "grew impatient". They insulted Moses and they insulted God, proclaiming their growing distrust and their dissatisfaction with the way things were going. The Lord in His anger sent venomous snakes to come and bite them until many of them died! The people went to Moses in fear and Moses in turn went to God pleading on their behalf to have mercy on them. He instructed Moses to make a snake out of bronze and put it on a pole. Then he was to place the pole up where everyone could see it and should anyone get bitten all they'd have to do is look at the bronze snake to receive healing and live.
Jesus is like the bronze snake for us! We are an ungrateful people at heart, always showing our distrust for God and His plan for our lives. We get tired, we get weak, and we get lazy! God initially established laws in order to direct us and remind us of Him in the trying times, but still in our selfishness we rebel which leads to death (separation from Him). But thank the Lord for His mercy, His loving-kindness! While The Laws were magnifying our sin, He instructed Jesus to be "put up", so that when we recognize death is imminent and we become overwhelmed by our sin, all we have to do is look up at Him and find healing WITH life! Hallelujah! There's faith in the "looking up"! This is where we are to direct the weak, the worn, the searching, the "bitten" - to look up at Christ! We no longer need to direct them to The Laws that magnify sin and lead to death. Directing them to the power of Christ (The Word) is enough! God will do the rest! We don't even need to direct them to the physical church, a "spiritual person", or any other "natural" thing! Let God lead them there! We should witness about our Christ-encounter, allow them to make a confession of faith, pray with them, and watch God lead you and lead them! I think sometimes we get so distracted by God's means of ministering that we forget to point people to Him. This happened to the Israelites we find in 2 Kings 18: 4! King Hezekiah had to break into pieces the bronze snake Moses made because up until that time the Israelites were burning incense to it! Everything is powerless to save, but nothing is impossible for God. When Jesus died to The Law for us and rose again by God's power, He opened up a new door for us - ETERNAL LIFE! (John 3:16) That door was shut to us because of our rebellion! Thankfully, Jesus' sacrifice made it so that all that God sees when He sees us is PAID IN FULL! Whew! I urge you while it's still called Today, to reevaluate where it is that you are directing people. Do you believe in where you're leading them? Find more confidence in time spent with the Lord; He'll make it easier! He promises!
Peace & Love