Look but Don’t Touch: A Look beyond the Surface that Leads to Salvation

4th Sunday in Lent - 3/10/2024 | Numbers 21:4-9

Look but Don't Touch: Complexities of a Simple Rule

In a recent encounter, I found myself witnessing a timeless piece of advice being passed down from a mother to her children: "You can look, but don't touch!" This simple directive sparked contemplation about the thoughts that race through a child's mind upon receiving such guidance.

The child's response might echo, "Mom, I promise I have no intention of taking anything! I see adults examining and handling objects all the time. Why can't I do the same?"

Parents enforce the "look but don't touch" rule not to frustrate their children but out of genuine concern, understanding the potential mishaps that can occur when children handle things. Accidents always seem to occur out of the blue!

This scenario brought to mind the biblical account of Adam and Eve, where their Creator gave them a similar instruction regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – a "look but don't touch" policy. Eve even conveyed this sentiment to the tempting serpent, stating, "...but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"

The Power and Peril of Looks that Ruin Lives

While looking may be permissible, it is not always advisable, and at times, it can even be perilous. Metaphorically speaking, looks can be deadly. People who are furious with us can shoot daggers with their eyes, and we often say, "If looks could kill..." Our own gaze can also be harmful. For example, welders wear masks, and we are advised not to stare at the sun, as intense light can blind us.

However, certain looks can go beyond causing harm. They can ruin lives. For instance, Lot's wife was transformed into a pillar of salt for looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah, despite God's direct command not to do so.

Some looks can lead to divine wrath. Jesus warns, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). The apostle Matthew reinforces this, stating that those engaged in immoral or impure looks will not inherit the kingdom of God. The dangers extend to viewing pornography, often leading to addictions, child abuse, rape, and even murder.

The Biblical Shift: Salvation beyond a Glance

While looks can be deadly, there is also a look that saves. It goes beyond a mere glance. It is a matter of the heart.

Recall an incident of rebellion against God. The nation of Israel journeys towards the Promised Land. After defeating the Canaanite King Arad, obstacles arise due to Edom's refusal to grant passage, forcing Israel to traverse a challenging wilderness. Frustration sets in, and complaints against God and Moses escalate, expressing dissatisfaction with the miraculous manna they have received for 40 years.

In response, God sends fiery serpents whose bites prove fatal. The people repent and seek Moses' intercession. Surprisingly, instead of removing the serpents, God provides a means of salvation – looking at a bronze serpent mounted on a pole. It is a simple act, but more than a fleeting glance; it requires faith in God's promise of life.

This biblical account parallels the salvation offered through Jesus, as mentioned in the Gospel of John. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent, the Son of Man must be lifted up for believers to attain eternal life. The serpent's bite symbolizes humanity's terminal condition inherited from Adam, necessitating a Savior.

The Demands of Salvation beyond a Passing Glance

Jesus, God's intercessor, not only pleads for us but willingly assumes humanity's deadly condition. His crucifixion becomes the path to salvation, inviting believers to fix their gaze upon the cross for eternal life. 

It is not an easy sight – the battered body of the Son of God, a reminder of our guilt. However, without confronting this reality, one cannot truly comprehend the magnitude of the sacrifice or grasp the grace that brings life. The crucified Jesus may be difficult to behold, but salvation requires more than a passing glance. It demands genuine faith in God's promise.

Holy Baptism and the Gospel provide the eyes of faith to see the Crucified One, ensuring that believers will not perish but have everlasting life. So, let your eyes of faith feast upon the Crucified Jesus, and regardless of the depth of rebellion, discover eternal healing in Him. Amen!

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