The Son of Man must be lifted up

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  I think Raymond Brown in his concise commentary on John captures the gist of the message of this portion of the gospel reading in two sentences:

By twofold meaning the word “lift up” refers both to being lifted up on the cross and being lifted up in to heaven. In Jesus’ return to his father the cross is the first step on the ladder of the ascension.

And, now God has highly exalted him as the reading from Philippians says. And, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Let us bend the knee to Christ today and imitate his example that through humbling ourselves, we too may experience his grace (James 4.6).


About Jeremy

I work at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Hammond, LA. I teach part-time classes from time to time, through Loyola University in New Orleans, Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and St. Joseph's Abbey and Seminary College. I also just finished a doctoral degree in Biblical languages through the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
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One Response to The Son of Man must be lifted up

  1. Scott says:

    Funny that this is the Gospel for today. I recently had an “ah ha” moment regarding the brazen serpent in the book of Numbers, and its reference in the Gospel of John the other day while watching Bishop Fulton Sheen. Until then, I had always wondered why God would command Moses to erect a bronze serpent – I mean, we just got over this golden calf thing, right?

    Saint in waiting, Fulton Sheen, explains it thusly:

    When the Jewish people were bitten by poisonous serpents, God commanded Moses to make a brazen serpent, and to hang it over the crotch of a tree; all who would look upon that serpent of brass would be healed of the serpent’s sting. This apparently was a rather ridiculous remedy for poison and not everyone looked on it. If one could divine or guess their reason, it would probably be because they concentrated on only one side of the symbol; namely, the lifeless, shiny, brass thing hanging on a tree. But it proved to be a symbol of faith: God used that material thing as a symbol of trust or faith in Him.

    The symbolism goes still further. The Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ, Who reveals the full mystery of the brazen serpent. Our Lord told Nicodemus that the brass serpent was lifted up in the desert, so that He would have to be lifted up on a Cross. The meaning now became clear: the brass serpent in the desert looked like the serpent that bit the people; but though it seemed to be the same, it was actually without any poison. Our Blessed Lord now says that He is like that brazen serpent. He, too, would be lifted up on the crotch of a tree, a
    Cross. He would look as if He Himself was filled with the poison of sin, for His Body would bear the marks, and the stings, and the piercing of sin; and yet as the brass serpent was without poison so He would be without sin. As those who looked upon that brass serpent in the desert in faith were healed of the bite of the serpent, so all who would look upon Him on His Cross bearing the sins and poisons of the world would also be healed of the poison of the serpent, Satan.

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