Print Version    Email to Friend
Fourth Sunday of Lent: From there he will come to judge

John the Evangelist speaks of Nicodemus, a distinguished character among the Pharisees. He was perhaps a member of the great Sanhedrin, who, taking advantage of the darkness went to Jesus. He was in search of light and believes Jesus, the young rabbi from Nazareth can guide him. 
Later we find him debating with the leaders who were plotting to kill Jesus. He challenged, “does our law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?” He got a mocking response: “Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee” (John 7:51-52). Poor Nicodemus, too fair to be comfortable in that assembly of scoffers! 
He made his last appearance on Calvary, along with Joseph of Arimathea, to wrap the body of Jesus in bandages and lay it in the tomb (John 19:39-40). 
Today’s passage is the last part of his first night-time conversation. Jesus recalled an incident that occurred during the exodus. In the desert, many Israelites had fallen victims of poisonous snakes. Moses turned to the Lord who had ordered him to make a bronze snake and to hoist it on a pole. Whoever, after being bitten, raised his eyes to the serpent, saved his life (Number 21:4-9). In remembrance of the event, in the temple of Jerusalem a bronze serpent was kept which, they said, was the one lifted up by Moses. 
Jesus referred to this and prophesied: he would be lifted up on the cross and all those who behold him would save their lives. Surprised and shocked, Nicodemus listened in silence, unable to comprehend the meaning. In the light of the events of Easter, we are able to understand: to look at Jesus “lifted up” means “to believe in him,” keeping the eyes focussed on the love that he has shown.
Today the snakes that poison our existence and put our lives off are pride, envy, resentment, and unruly passions. 
Only an eye turned to Him who was raised can be treated healed of the malady. One day—ensures the Evangelist—“they shall look on him whom they have pierced” (19:37) and be saved. 
Then we are invited to a theological meditation on the mission of the Son of man: God did not send him “to condemn the world; but that the world might be saved through him.” 
Unlike Matthew, for John God’s judgment is not pronounced at the end of time, but today. In every choice that one makes, the Lord indicates what is right according to the wisdom of heaven and warns of the choices of death. 
However, at the end of life, God “will test the work of everyone by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13). God will certainly welcome all in his arms, but someone will be forced to admit of having handled badly or having irretrievably wasted a unique opportunity that was offered. 
The work of this man—Paul admonishes—“becomes ashes. He will be saved but it will be as if passing through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15). 
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications
Translated by Father John Ladesma SDB
Abridged by Father Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF