Wednesday, February 27

Snake on a stick!

Scripture: Numbers 21-23, Mark 6

Numbers 21:8–9 Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” 9 So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!

John 3:14–15 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.


When the people of Israel grumbled again, treating the Lord’s provision, of manna with contempt, the Lord sent an unusual judgment: venomous snakes.  The people cried for mercy, and God provided an unusual cure.  He told Moses to make a bronze replica of the snake (a violation of second commandment forbidding the making of images—something that Moses must have found repugnant) and put it on a pole.  Everyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed.  

Snakes are almost universally hated around the world.  In the Biblical story, Satan appeared as a snake in Genesis 1, and as a serpent or dragon in Revelation.  Snakes were detestable, personally and theologically. 

Moses is commanded to make an image of something detestable, an image of death and evil, and everyone who looks at it is healed.  It was completely counterintuitive.  Jesus, in John 3, commandeers this story for His own purposes, and applies it to Himself.  He will become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and be “lifted up” on a cross, suffering death for us.  All who “look to Him” or believe in Him will have eternal life.  


God takes the symbol of evil—the cross (nothing in the Roman world better symbolized the evil oppression of Rome)—and transforms it into the symbol of our salvation.  This is the grace of God: to take the worst we can do and transform it for His own redemptive purposes.  I can face anything knowing that God can transform it for good.

More importantly, Jesus’ death on a cross, considered in His day a shameful criminal punishment, is God’s way of saving me.  Crazy!  I live eternally by believing that Jesus’ humiliating death on a cross is actually God’s life-giving salvation.  Counter-intuitive.

I look to Jesus.  Others may consider Him irrelevant, or contemptible, or worse.  One ancient Roman cartoon pictured Jesus as a dead donkey, and underneath called him “the crucified God,” an oxymoron for Romans.  For us, it’s life.  I look to the crucified God for my salvation.

Prayer: Lord, you truly choose the weak things to shame the strong, the foolish things to confound the wise.  Thank you Jesus for embracing a shameful death to save me.  I look to you.