Fourth Sunday in Lent - Year B
THUS SAYS CYRUS
In the 6th century BC Israel was conquered by invaders from the Babylonian Empire (now Iraq). Most of the people were taken to Babylon as slaves. They maintained hope that God would send a savior to rescue them. That salvation came from an unlikely source, Cyrus II, the king of Persia (now Iran). He is known as Cyrus the Great because of his military victories. In 539 BC he captured Babylon.
Cyrus was a shrewd politician. He realized that he needed allies to control his vast domain. He sent most of the Babylonian slaves home and even paid them to rebuild their nations. Of course, he used captured money to finance the project. The Jews interpreted this as an act of God and call Cyrus their "messiah".
The first reading is part of the decree issued by Cyrus commanding the reconstruction of the Temple.
MOSES AND THE SERPENT
Jesus makes a strange analogy to explain the crucifixion. He refers to a metal statue that had been "crucified" by Moses. The incident is described in Numbers 21:4-9. The Hebrews were traveling through a region in the southern part of Jordan. It was infested with lizards that carried venom. This led to high fever and death.
Moses had been a desert dweller for many years and knew that the bites were not always fatal. Panic caused the poison to spread. If the people would relax the fever and its cause would pass. So Moses had to find a way to calm his people. God inspired him to create a statue of the serpent as a sign that the almighty could control real lizards.
Jesus may be using this illustration to show the psychological power of the crucifixion. His death on the cross was a reminder of God's ultimate power over sin and evil.
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