And 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. (John 3:14-15 ESV)
Snakes…ew. Am I right? They’re slithery, scaly and sometimes even poisonous. From their expressionless faces to their forked tongues, they seem tailormade to frighten. Maybe that’s why so many people have a pathological fear of them. Then again, there’s also that whole Satan thing from the book of Genesis. You know, when he poses as a serpent and deceives Adam and Eve, bringing about the fall of man and a curse on the earth? Not exactly a recipe for trust and warm fuzzies. The point is that however we got there, deserved or not, snakes generally have a bad rap.
Then, just to make matters worse, there was that whole plague of snakes thing. No, it wasn’t one of the Ten Plagues of Egypt; this was a few years later. Long story short, fresh off a military victory, Israel gets impatient and ungracious about their wilderness living situation, so God sent a plague of deadly vipers into their camp (Seriously, you can almost hear Indiana Jones groaning here).
As you can imagine, the pit vipers got everyone’s attention fairly quickly. People realized that things could always be worse – so they repented of their sin. That’s when God told Moses to make a pole with a serpent image on top. Whenever anyone was bitten, all they had to do was look at the bronze serpent on that staff, and they would be healed. You can find the whole story in Numbers 21 if you care to look.
On the surface, it was a simple solution to a simple problem. Think deeper, however, and you’ll find something different. People need physical healing – I’m not denying that – but physical healing only goes so far. Forget snakes for a moment. Doctors today have advanced medicine to treat and cure all kinds of things, but it isn’t enough. People still die. Death, it turns out, stalks us all. You can exercise, diet, do all the little things to keep your body healthy, but in the end you’re running a race you literally can’t win. No one has ever cheated death. You might live to be a hundred years old, but you’re still going to die in the end. What we need, really need, is not physical, but spiritual healing—something the Bible calls salvation.
Beyond Physical Healing
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)
It feels strange comparing Jesus to a snake, but that’s what He Himself does when He brings up the bronze serpent Moses used in the wilderness. His point was that just like people used to look at that statue with faith that they would be healed—and they were—so now people wanting to be spiritually healed—made right with God—must look to Jesus lifted up on the Cross.
Science has made a lot of progress since the time of Moses, but when it comes to spiritual healing, there is still only one solution to the problem of sin and death—His name is Jesus Christ. Armchair philosophers have spun wonderful stories about how all religions are really all the same, but that isn’t the picture Jesus paints at all. Even a cursory glance will tell you how pithy and uninformed their idea is, even if it is inclusive and friendly.
In reality, we are all snakebitten by sin (those things we do that separate us from God). You’re probably familiar with the big ones like murder and adultery, but even little things like gossip and envy can really trip you up. If Israel hadn’t gotten rebellious towards God, those vipers would never have been an issue. You see, the problem that the Israelites had in the wilderness wasn’t snakes or snakebites, it was the sin from which those wounds arose. Death isn’t the problem; sin is, and the cure for sin is Jesus."Death isn't the problem; sin is, and the cure for sin is Jesus." -Jon Smith #collegiatedisciplemaker The Remedy for the Snakebite of Sin Click To Tweet
Jesus. That’s really all it comes down to. We find ourselves in a funk, snakebitten by life, by the world, by the choices we ourselves have made more than once, and we get down, maybe angry. Maybe depressed. Maybe… there are a host of maybes, but the question is always the same: now what? Look to Jesus. The answer never changes.
The Answer for Spiritual Healing
Let’s wrap this up. Ask yourself where you’re at in your relationship with God. For some people there is no relationship. You’re on the outside looking in and you know it. Look to Jesus. Talk to him. Give Him control in your life and see what happens. (Pro tip: talk to someone else too, like a pastor or someone from this organization).
Some of you know you have a relationship with God, you just aren’t tight with Him right now. Guess what? The answer doesn’t change, and you know, you know, you can’t heal on your own. We’re not wired to heal ourselves. So send a text, make a call, PM, DM or Snap someone who can help. Maybe it’s a friend who loves Jesus too. Maybe it’s your pastor. Maybe you’re not sure who to trust. Trust Jesus.
Others of you are in ministry, whether vocationally or not. You’re pouring out into people all the time. You’re trying to heal them. And you’re weary and discouraged because they still seem to be dying. Know what? The answer doesn’t change for you, either. You can’t heal them. They need Jesus. So let the pressure fall off your shoulders and remember, you have just one job: point them to Jesus. Trust Him; He can handle them.
For all of the pathological fear people feel about them, snakes are actually beautiful creatures, and all the more so if they can point us back to God. Consider that the next time you spot one during your wilderness adventures.