by Erik Ritland
“Of course, this doesn’t mean that our only job is to lazily accept what Jesus did for us and continue living our lives of turning away from God. We are saved by God’s work in Jesus, but as Jesus says, we are called to “go and sin no more.” If all we do is talk about what Jesus does, and it doesn’t affect our lives in a profound way, Jesus literally becomes an idol.”
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Things start getting extra real in our readings, as the Israelites look to the bronze serpent to be healed from deadly wounds, and Jesus explains how He does the same thing on a whole new level.
Readings: Nm 21:4-9/Jn 8:21-30
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
(cf. Nm 21:4-9/Jn 8:21-30)
It’s uncanny how many things that happen in the Old Testament clearly point to Jesus (or, at the very least, fit into the Jesus story very well). The story of the bronze serpent is a clear precursor to Jesus. Just as the Isrealites were saved when the bronze serpent was lifted up, so everyone is saved from their wrongdoing and their faults by Jesus lifted up on the cross.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that our only job is to lazily accept what Jesus did for us and continue living our lives of turning away from God. We are saved by God’s work in Jesus, but as Jesus says, we are called to “go and sin no more.” If all we do is talk about what Jesus does, and it doesn’t affect our lives in a profound way, Jesus literally becomes an idol.
Some claim that Christians looked back to find stories in the Old Testament to fit their theology. If this was the case, they somehow created an in-depth, complex, coherent system, all while preaching everywhere and having to avoid death at every turn. It’s unrealistic that they had the time, energy, or desire to create and perpetuate a lie, and one that was so brilliant and had so much to it. It also put them on the chopping block. There would have been plenty of better ways to deceive people, and it wouldn't have cost them their lives.
Jesus said, “The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him."
(cf. Jn 8: 21-30)
The relationship of Jesus and His Father is complex, mysterious, not all that easy to pin down. This makes sense. If every part of Christianity was easy to explain, that’d be a sure sign that it was made up by human reason alone.
The main point is this, though: as God is with Jesus, and gave Him power, so God is also with us, just as intimately. We can tap into that, have a real relationship with the living God, and all we have to do ask for it and desire it.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.