John 3: 14-17
Today's reading is from Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, a man struggling with the notion of believing in "heavenly things", particularly about the concept of being "born of the Spirit". He is having trouble accepting the words of Jesus without more rock solid proof. He likes the miracles Jesus has performed - they are real proof -- but when Jesus is describing being "born from above", meaning born of water and the Spirit, Nicodemus has problems. He wants more proof, preferably miracles, of the spiritual messages Jesus is teaching. So Jesus tries to put it in a context that as a Pharisee, leader and teacher of the Jews, Nicodemus could understand and accept.
He reminds Nicodemus that when Moses was talking with God in the wilderness, Moses was extremely uncomfortable with the idea that he is forceful enough to convince the enslaved Israelites that he will lead them out of Egypt, that they can and will take on the Egyptian power structure. So the Lord directs him to throw his staff to the ground, where it turns into a snake. Yikes. Then the Lord tells him to pick it up - yikes, again -- and it turns back into a staff. The Lord tells him to do this when he is speaking to the Israelites so that they will be convinced this is a message from the Lord and will follow Moses' leadership.
Now God has sent his Son Jesus as the ultimate proof that "everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." Like the lifting up of the serpent, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.
Throughout Jesus' life, he is constantly asked for proof of his mission. How much proof do we need?