Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Lent

Welcome to our series of Lent and Easter reflections.

On the fourth Sunday of Lent The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle reminds us of tales of snakes within the Bible and ponders the idea of temptation. This reflection is inspired by John 3: 14-21.

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John 3: 14-21

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’


In Genesis, when Adam and Eve did what humans do, and made the wrong choice, you may remember what happened to the snake. In that sorry story, it has to crawl on its belly and eat dust. If Lent without salt, or whatever it is that you have chosen to give up, makes everything taste the same you know how the snake feels. Snakes crop up again in our reading. In the book of Numbers, they start biting the children of Israel. Rescue comes when Moses lifts up a serpent on a pole. Those who look are rescued. Jewish tradition suggests people had got bored with eating manna. They wanted other flavours. Snakes, who could eat only dust, pointed out their error.

Now Jesus asks if we are ready to look when he is ‘lifted up’. For those who chose to see, the serpent on the pole was salvation. Will we look to the scandal of the man hanging on the cross? It is the question St John’s gospel keeps asking. Are we looking? Even in Lent, temptation hunts us down. Are we busy noticing our own effort, or are we looking for something else? It is the startling Saviour who dies and will rise who asks us that question.


Almighty God,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
you have made us for yourself,
so that our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
Grant us purity of heart and strength of purpose,
so that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing your will,
no weakness from doing it.
Grant that in your light we may see light clearly,
and in your service find our perfect freedom.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord.