Faces of the Cross, Face of Snakes
Jesus had a very significant conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. In this dialogue, Jesus reaches back to an event recorded in Numbers 21 and makes a comparison with that event and his yet to be fulfilled cross event: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him (Joh 3:14-15).” Of the 28 verses in the NT about the cross, this passage (which does not include the word “cross”) becomes the very first reference by the Christ to the cross. The “face” of the cross is first about a snake—-but how could this be?
The story in Numbers is about the people of Israel grumbling, complaining and actually speaking with disdain against the blessings being poured out on this 2M strong nation of refugees from Egypt. Not only have they been spared the plagues of Egypt in deliverance, they have received miraculous care from the God of heaven for their desert existence. Sources of water have been provided from desert rocks; manna, the bread of heaven and angels, has been sent in daily provision; fire at night has lit their camps; clothes and shoes have not worn out—-the blessings go on and on. Yet, the people complained even to the point of loathing the bread of heaven calling it “light bread”: “They traveled to the Red Sea…… But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died (Num 21:4-6).”
Snakes, serpents, vipers—-poisonous and deadly—were sent by God to punish the people as God was fed up with this foolishness! Sand vipers, hiding in the sand, yet suddenly appearing in the Israel 12 camps to bite and kill. What a sad lot for the people of God spared from the devastation of Egypt, yet throwing all of God’s care away for the own selfish, concocted agenda. However, even in this demise of allegiance, God stepped back in at Moses’ request to provide a way out: The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived (Num 21:7-9).
The pole was a type of cross as paintings on antiquity show. The bronze snake was fixed to this pole or cross, curled and wrapped around both the horizontal and vertical bars. A shadow of the cross to come? A face of the cross to come? Jesus said it was! Men and women, wake up! The Cross of Christ holds the answers to the world’s dilemma. The Cross of Christ holds the answer to the demise of man’s proper allegiance. As the serpent entered Eve and Adam, as the serpents killed Israel, the serpents are in our sand today striking and killing, with only the Face on that Cross able to save us (the serpent nipped his heel but Christ crushed his head)!
Scott and Jane Johnson minister with East Faulknew Church of Christ and BRG Bible. Bible questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Do You Want To Get Well?
So my trip of a lifetime to Israel is over but I will forever be changed! While in Jerusalem we were constantly greeted with “welcome home!” Jerusalem felt like a home away from home if that makes sense. Our last day was filled with many emotions. Saying goodbye was hard. In fact when we all arrived back in the States, we all seemed to become “home sick” literally! We were home, but we were sick. Of the 41 delegates that were on our tour, 19 of us were diagnosed with the flu or pneumonia. Thankfully, we know of a Great Physician! Thankfully this sickness has almost finished running its course. It could have been worse. I am reminded of one of the places we visited in Jerusalem called the pools of Bethesda. In John chapter there is an account of a man who had been lame for 38 years! A great multitude of disabled people camped out around this pool. They believed that when the waters were stirred they would be healed if they could only get in. For this man in particular, he never could get someone to help him in. I would have loved to have seen the look on the man’s face when Jesus asks him if he wants to be well. And even more so when Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and walk! Now, Jesus and my wife told me to go to the doctor and get Tamiflu, and I did what I was told. But, here is the take away, sometimes we find ourselves stuck in hopeless situations and along comes Jesus. Do you want to get well? Whatever our situations or concerns, Jesus, can turn it all around if we simply seek Him and do what He says! Good to be home, and well!
Captain Jason Perdieu is corps officer of the Salvation Army of El Dorado.