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  • Writer's pictureKristina Trott

The serpent on the pole

The image of snakes on poles has long been associated with doctors and pharmacists and is symbolic of healing. It is a symbol, however, that starts long before Greek mythology, going back to the days when Israel was camping in the wilderness.

Although God continually provided them with food to eat, they complained bitterly and continuously that God had brought them into the wilderness to die. To teach them all a lesson God sent poisonous snakes to bite them, making them sick and causing them to die. The people repented and asked their leader, Moses, to intercede with God. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent figure and to place it on a pole so that whoever was bitten would look at it and be healed. (Num. 21:4-9).

Can you see what has happened here? Israel sinned and suffered the consequences – sickness and death but God provided a way for them to be forgiven and healed.

We could leave the story here and say that here is another instance of the need for forgiveness being coupled with healing, but Jesus uses this incident to make the point that just like the snake was lifted up in the wilderness, so must He.

Let’s read those verses: “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” (John 3:14 NLT). If we can but look to the cross and see our sin and its effects on that cross, then we can be forgiven and healed.

Just after that verse we read: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:14-18 NLT)

Interesting isn’t it? Right beside the most famous Bible verse in the world, Jesus has linked the serpent on a pole incident. Jesus came into the world so that any who look to him who are suffering with sin and its effects, would be forgiven and healed. Jesus came to save the world, mind, body and soul.

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