Psalm 78:1-2, 34-38
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up. The people looked upon the serpent and they were healed. We look upon Christ and we are healed. What were the people healed of? Snake bites. They looked at an image of the very thing that was killing them. So it is also with us: when we see Christ crucified we are looking at an example of the very illness we want healed. When we look at a crucifix, we are looking at sin and death. What greater symbol of sin exists? Violence and pride and every evil are contained in the act of crucifying the one who loves us. More than this, our enemy is death and when we see Jesus dead on the Cross we see death itself.
Is this just magic? No, the bronze serpent did not heal the Israelites; God did. We are saved by faith. As Jesus tells us, “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.” Jesus was crucified so that, believing in him, we would have eternal life. We look upon him whom we have killed and, believing that he is God, we enter into his death, and by dying with him we will also rise with him.
Jesus was obedient, even to death on the Cross. We see this and enter into that obedience, even to the particular death destined for each of us. Remember that you are going to die. Death is not optional! Every moment of life is preparation for your death, preparation to die together with Jesus. Your death will probably come sooner than you expect. Be ready to die; be ready to die today.
Today we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, how two simple pieces of wood became glorious beyond measure because of how they helped save the world by participating in the death of Jesus Christ. Consider how the beams were once part of a living tree. They died and, in death, became united forever with the death of Jesus Christ. We are these beams of wood. We must be as closely united to Christ as he was to that Cross, no room in between for anything else. We must die with Christ and then be exalted.