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English: Jesus and Nicodemus

March 18, 2012 is the Fourth Sunday of Lent . The reading is from Gospel of John 3:14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.

But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

The Gospel for today John 3:14-21 has a parallel theme in the Second Reading for the day Ephesians 2:4-10:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

Here, Paul tells us that God is so rich in mercy that through Christ Jesus He has given us as a free gift eternal salvation and eternal life.

Nicodemus, was a wealthy Pharisee who was a friend of Jesus. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in the Biblical Land of Israel. Though there is no clear source of information about this Nicodemus outside the Gospel of John, the Jewish Encyclopedia and many Biblical historians have theorized that he is identical to Nicodemus ben Gurion, mentioned in the Talmud as a wealthy and popular holy man reputed to have had miraculous powers. Christian tradition asserts that Nicodemus was martyred sometime in the first century. Nicodemus is venerated as a Saint by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Roman Catholics celebrate his memorial on August 3.

Giovanni Angelo Del Maino, "Statue of Nic...

Though Nicodemus was an admirer of Jesus he did not want other Pharisees or members of the Sanhedrin to see him along with Jesus. So, he comes and meets Jesus at night. Both of them have a long religious discourse. Jesus explains to Nicodemus that he must believe his words. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.

He further explains to Nicodemus God’s plan of salvation by referring to Moses and the bronze serpent he mounted on a pole.

In Numbers 21:4-9 we read the episode of the seraph serpents. Seraph is the Hebrew name for a certain species of venomous snake; etymologically the word might signify “the fiery one.”

From Mount Hor they set out by way of the Red Sea, to bypass the land of Edom, but the people’s patience was worn out by the journey; so the people complainedd against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”

So the LORD sent among the people seraph serpents, which bite the people so that many of the Israelites died.

Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray to the LORD to take the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses: Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover.

Accordingly Moses made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered.

So, Jesus tells Nicodemus “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

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