Among many of our churches, this weekend is observed as either the 14th Sunday After Pentecost or Holy Cross Day. It seemed especially fitting that we observe Holy Cross Day at Holy Cross Lutheran Church! And all three of the appointed lessons for the weekend either “foreshadow” or point us directly to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament reading we find the people of Israel wandering through the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula. Because of their disobedience and lack of faith in God’s promise of protection years earlier when He freed them from Egyptian slavery, and again on many subsequent occasions throughout their arduous journey, they were subjected to various trials and hardships. We read that they complained and rebelled against God and Moses. “The people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’” (Numbers 21: 4-5)
The people often showed themselves to be cantankerous, rebellious and impatient. God demonstrated His judgment upon their sin when He “sent venomous snakes among them; [the snakes] bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.’ So, Moses prayed for the people.” (Numbers 21: 6-7)
In His infinite mercy, God heard their prayer and forgave their sin. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it upon on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’… Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” (Numbers 21: 8-9) When they looked up and believed what God promised, they were forgiven, healed and were saved!
In the gospel reading, non-Jews (Greeks) came looking for Jesus. But for what exactly were they looking?… A magician? A performer? A miracle worker? Jesus knew they needed to know the truth – that He was the Messiah sent by God to suffer and die for the forgiveness of sins; the sins of ALL people. In an illustrative way, He told them, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12: 24) In other words, He would come into His own glory – the purpose for which He had come – and would bring glory to His Heavenly Father by dying, being buried and rising again. His death brought life to countless others – to you and me, and multitudes more who have been given the gifts of faith, forgiveness and eternal life!
God is glorified and we are richly blessed when the un-Holy Trinity (the devil, the world and our sinful flesh) are defeated and destroyed through the power of the cross. Now when we look up to Jesus on the Cross and believe what God promised, we are forgiven, healed and saved!
Jesus said, “Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be.” (John 12: 26) He was lifted up for us, so now we Lift Up the Cross for Him! How will the Holy Spirit work in you to “Lift High the Cross?” May God bring us closer to one another and help us to Lift High the Cross in our families, neighborhoods, with our friends and among our daily acquaintances!
Blessings in Christ,