Christ made a promise that everyone who believes in Christ will have eternal life. Just as He promised in the Old Testament when Moses was leading the People of God in the wilderness, God promises us that if we look at Christ on the Cross with faith, we will have eternal life. Even if we are wounded by life, God’s promise is power and His Cross is life.
My brothers and sisters, on this Sunday before Holy Cross, the Church is preparing us to celebrate the feast which is this week, preparing us to live a life with the cross, the cross of Christ, the cross that we know means life, but we also know that the cross means struggle and death, but Christ made a promise and all the way into the Old Testament… For those of us who do not know the Old Testament, we should learn the Old Testament because it prepares us for Christ. Because this morning’s gospel brings our attention straight back to the Old Testament. It says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It’s important that we remember what this is referencing in the Old Testament.
When the snakes, when the serpents were stinging and killing the people, God commanded Moses to put a serpent on a rod, the copper serpent, and he promised Moses and he promised the people that as long as you were looking at the serpent and believed in God’s promise, they would not die. Now, think for a moment, where do we see that serpent in our church? It’s at the top of the bishop’s staff and the serpent is there with the Stavro. It’s reminding us of what life is about. Although we are going to be wounded in life, although we are going to struggle in life, we’re going to carry our cross, but as long as we look at Christ and believe his promise, nothing in this world can hurt us.
Now, that’s an interesting promise. Nothing in this world can hurt us, and yet our cemeteries are full of people who have been hurt by the world, but that doesn’t hurt us. It only hurts our bodies. We go to sleep and we will be raised again with Christ because, as it says in the gospel, whoever believes in him shall have eternal life. And Christ goes on… It’s football season. I call this the football verse, John 3:16. How many of you have seen the sign, as the camera is panning over the crowd in almost every football game in the world, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life?”
We will live forever if we believe in Jesus Christ, not on earth, but with him in heaven. This body of ours is going to return to the dirt, but we will be resurrected again as Christ’s body was resurrected again and we will be reunited body and soul with God in heaven if we believe. Can you imagine what it meant in the Old Testament to trust in God’s promise? You read the Old Testament, you see the plagues, and you see the floods, and you see the pillars of salt and the columns of fire. You see all of these things and you think, “How difficult it must have been to trust in God’s promise!” But it’s there, it’s true. God is a man of his word as they say. If God promises something, it will be true, but that doesn’t mean, my brothers and sisters, that we’re going to go through life easy because Christ also acknowledges our cross, that we have to carry our cross. We have to welcome the struggles of life. We have to love God enough to accept that pain as he accepted the pain of the cross for us.
But that pain is only temporary because of the power of God’s love, the power of his promise, and, as we are celebrating this entire week, the power of his cross. And so I’m going to encourage you, my brothers and sisters, to make time for church this week for the Feast of Holy Cross. Come for Vespers the night before and liturgy in the morning. That’s Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. If you have to, go in late to work. If you have to, go in late to school. Come and celebrate the cross, remembering the promise of Christ. We look on Christ on the cross and we believe and we live forever. That’s his promise and that’s his power. Glory to God for all things.