He came to save us…to save the world. He still does it every single day. One time, he even went all the way to hell, and back again. He did it for you. He did it for me. He did it, and would do it, all over again, even if there was only one of us left. He did it for people who have no idea what or who or how he is or was or will be. He did the one and only thing he was ever born to do–he saved the world.
There’s no magic in what Jesus did in his life, and with his life. Oh sure, there are big and giant events of the radically unexplained all in and around and through and beyond his life. But there’s no magic. There’s just love. There’s an absolutely transcendental refusal of the will to power, and a daily acceptance of the fact that we are broken and dying, and the only real way any of us can be saved or be called good is to love and be loved. Jesus lived fully committed and enfleshed to that reality, and stood eyeball to eyeball and toe to toe with the broken and dying world, and did the least rational and most redemptive thing he possibly could have done, and just loved the hell out of it. Loves the hell out of it. Loves our sharp and pointy edges and wheezes and insomnia and hardness and forgetfulness and spite…loves us down to the bottom of where all those things wrestle, and sits down with us in it, and wipes our faces, and helps us get back on our feet, and put our faces to the sun, and start to become whole and…holy.
Jesus talks to Nicodemus about being lifted up the desert, like the brazen serpent of Moses, during the forty years of wandering. See, that serpent was a healing talisman, and it went up, at the head of camp, at the same time and with the same attention and fervor that the Tabernacle went up. It was huge, and way up high, so to be seen from most every vantage point. The Children of Israel had been tasked with treading upon the adder’s head for even longer than they had been wandering in the desert, and this desert seemed to have an abundance. People were bitten, people died. It was unpleasant. It was not unexpected or unheard of. But it sure made the going tougher than it already was. A remedy was lifted, and all anyone who was bitten had to do was look at it, and be healed.
Sometimes, we get too deep into the fancy business of church or trying to live self-actualized and adult lives, and we get bitten. And it stings. The sting reminds us that we are actually kind of fragile, that no matter how hard we try we may still be caught off-guard. When we come to that kind of understanding about our brokenness–by being broken, it’s hard to look up. It’s hard to look at Jesus and see that the love he lived and lives is the only way to get better. We feel bad for falling, in the first place, for not seeing a snake in the grass when we should have been paying closer attention than ever, and maybe we feel like looking up is like taking a get out of jail free card, and that’s bad, because we’re not playing by the rules.. We get caught up in the pain and shock and hurt of the bite, of the blood and the mess, and forget to look up, because OH MY GOD, NO ONE HAS EVER FELT PAIN LIKE THIS EVER, EVER, AND IT MUST MEAN I’M ALL ALONE AND FINALLY GOT WHAT WAS COMING TO ME. Or maybe that’s just me.
When life bites, and it’s always when I least expect it, always at the worst time possible, always when my defenses and reserves are running low, it’s hard to remember to look up, to see Jesus and his love lifted up in front of me, and sometimes, it’s just hard to meet his gaze, to admit my weakness, my inability to save myself, my lack of vigilance and competency laid bare for Jesus all the world (or so it feels) to see. But I know that’s the only way to not die in the dust, with the curse of the ages clinging around my feet. I know it’s the way back to life, to love, and to the deep joy Jesus offers us with a life among God’s people of all shades and shapes and sensibilities. I know it’s the way I remember the some of the very best and deepest things I know–that God so loved the world. That’s you. And that’s me. Every single day.