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From Shadows to Light: A Lenten Journey of Transformation

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B) Numbers 21:4–9, Ephesians 2:1–10, and John 3:14–21

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Dear brothers and sisters, as we journey through this sacred season of Lent, we embark on

a journey of reflection, repentance, and renewal. Lent invites us into a deeper understanding of our human condition, our profound need for God's grace, and the boundless depth of His love for us. Today, we will explore three passages of Scripture—Numbers 21:4–9, Ephesians 2:1–10, and John 3:14–21—that weave together a rich tapestry of themes central to our Lenten journey: sin, judgment, grace, faith, and transformation.

The Human Condition and Divine Judgment

In Numbers 21:4–9, we encounter the Israelites in a moment of impatience and rebellion. Despite God's miraculous deliverance from Egypt, they grumble against Him. Their ingratitude and lack of faith result in a severe judgment: fiery serpents sent among them, causing death. Yet, in this moment of judgment, God also provides a means of salvation—a bronze serpent lifted high on a pole, offering healing to all who would look upon it in faith.

This narrative lays bare the human condition—a propensity towards sin and rebellion against God. It also introduces a theme that runs throughout Scripture: our actions have consequences, and sin leads to judgment. However, intertwined with judgment is God's mercy, offering us a path to redemption.

Grace: God's Answer to Our Plight

Ephesians 2:1–10 shifts the focus from the physical wilderness of the Israelites to the spiritual wilderness of humanity. Paul describes us as dead in our transgressions and sins, following the ways of the world and under the influence of evil forces. Yet, the passage pivots dramatically with the words, "But God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4–5).

Here, Paul reveals the heart of the Gospel: while judgment is the just consequence of sin, God's response is grace. Through Christ's sacrifice, we are made alive, raised up, and seated with Him in the heavenly realms. This is not a result of our own efforts but a gift of grace to be received through faith.

Faith and Transformation

John 3:14–21 brings these themes into sharp focus through Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus draws a parallel between the bronze serpent in the wilderness and His own crucifixion: "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him" (John 3:14–15). This passage emphasizes that faith in Christ is the means by which we are saved from judgment and granted eternal life.

Furthermore, Jesus speaks of coming into the light—a metaphor for truth, goodness, and divine presence. Those who believe in Him step out of the shadows of sin and into the light of God's love, evidenced by lives transformed by the truth.

A Lenten Call to Transformation

As we reflect on these passages, we see a common thread: the journey from judgment to grace, from death to life, and from darkness to light. This Lenten season, we are invited to embark on a similar journey of transformation.

1. Acknowledging Our Sin: Like the Israelites, we must confront our rebellious nature, our impatience, and our ingratitude. Lent calls us to honesty about our sinfulness and our need for God's mercy.

2. Receiving Grace: Ephesians reminds us that, though we were dead in our sins, we have been made alive through Christ. This season, let us deeply contemplate the grace that has been extended to us—a grace that saves, heals, and raises us up.

3. Exercising Faith: John's Gospel challenges us to look to Christ, lifted up on the cross, for our salvation. Our response to God's grace is faith—not a mere intellectual assent but a deep, transforming trust that changes how we live.

4. Walking in the Light: As we grow in faith, we are called to step into the light, leaving behind the deeds of darkness. Lent is a time to examine the ways we are still walking in shadows and to commit to living more fully in the truth and light of Christ.

This Lenten season, let us journey from the wilderness of sin to the promised land of God's grace. Let us move from death to life, from judgment to mercy, and from darkness to light. As we reflect on the bronze serpent lifted up in the wilderness, may we see in it a foreshadowing of Christ lifted up on the cross, offering us healing and salvation.

John Hill, CEO/Editor, Cross & Crown/Free Will Baptist Press

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