Who would have thought that John 3:16, that enigmatic slogan that appears in crowd scenes at major sporting events, behind sky-writing planes and in many references to the passing of the late Billy Graham, had much to do with this week’s discussion of a snake on a stick (here and here)?
The fourth gospel’s burden is to demonstrate the efficacy of Jesus’ presence amongst his followers. We have to cut through the ancient Hellenistic penchant for dualism, double entendre and drama to understand the link. “Belief” is not mere intellectual assent, but a relational no-holds-barred devotion and focus on the life and way revealed by Christ. Far from couching a formula for personal salvation, today’s passage goes much further and describes a Christ enabling rootedness of purposeful (eternal) life in God. It entails being “born from above” and living in the Spirit.
Moses “snake on a stick” is the event in Israel’s faith history that John appropriates to ground his otherwise abstract reflection.