I wanted to begin today by sharing a few words of wisdom from my daughter who just turned five: “In heaven you can’t die, so you can eat popcorn and hot dogs at the same time and not have to worry about choking.” I just thought you’d all like to have one more thing to look forward to in eternity. Of course one could well ask, “If there are hot dogs in heaven, could it really be heaven?”
But I digress.
In church this morning the pastor preached on John 3 and covered the portion of the gospel where Jesus confronts Nicodemus. Just prior to what are undoubtedly the most-quoted verses of the Bible, Jesus tells the Pharisee, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus refers, of course, to Numbers 21:4-9 where Jesus punished the ungrateful Israelites by sending “fiery serpents” among them. In one of the Old Testament’s clearest shadows of the cross of Christ, God commanded Moses to create a bronze serpent that whoever looked at that serpent would be saved. It would only have been a fool who would feel the onset of sickness and death caused by that snakebite, but still refuse to look to the serpent.
I thought then of the joy and privilege it is to look to the cross of Christ, even in church this morning. I thought of my neighborhood where each Sunday morning our car is, as far as we know, the only one that drives a family to church. We are the only ones who raise our eyes to the cross each Sunday so that we might look to the cross and be saved. I was filled with gratitude to God for His saving gift and was filled with gratitude to experience the privilege of attending a church where the pastor and elders are committed to ensuring that each service our eyes are drawn to the cross. The cross is all they’ve got to offer us—it’s all they want to offer us. It’s a blessing to see new faces in that church as more people experience the joy of gazing at the cross.
From there my thoughts were drawn to places in the world where so many more people head to church each Sunday. I thought of Houston’s infamous Lakewood church, just one example of a place where each weekend tens of thousands of men and women gather, but where those thousands upon thousands are not led to truly gaze upon the cross. Rather, their gaze is drawn to a human—a mere sinful mortal. It can be no other way. After all, if we do not draw men’s gaze to the cross, we draw it only to ourselves. What a tragedy that so many miss the true thing. They may go to church for a lifetime and never truly be encouraged to see the cross as the main thing—as the only thing of real and lasting value. Their eyes may never be lifted up beyond themselves—beyond other human beings.
I thank God for faithful Christians and faithful churches that exist to lift up the cross so sinful men and women may look at it and live.