Easter 2023 – Why The Serpent On The Pole?
John 3:14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:”
John 3:15 “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Hello readers, thanks for reading. It’s Easter, we’ve just had Good Friday here in Adelaide, South Australia. At this time of year, lots of people eat easter eggs and catch up with family, for others it’s just great to have a long weekend… but for some they think more specifically about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For me, and I believe for any Christian, Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is important not just this weekend… but every day of the year. Paul wrote this in 2 Corinthians 4:10 “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
As a Christian, we never “outgrow” or grow up from the gospel of Jesus Christ. What Jesus did on the cross is the centrepiece of Christianity and the Christian life. It is the source of life for the child of God. And I rest, and I hope you rest, in the finished work of Christ on the cross for “it is finished”.
Today, I would like to focus briefly, but I hope effectively, upon the verses that immediately precede one of the most famous verses in the Bible… which is John 3:16. Before that verse, we read the two verses that are quoted above. Please read them and consider them today.
The context is that Jesus is talking to a guy called Nicodemus… a lost religious man who is looking for truth. He’s come to the right place hasn’t he.
And then what Jesus says to him are some of the most rich and important verses in the Bible, and it is here that we learn “ye must be born again”. Because you have to be born again.
There really was no point Jesus teaching this man about the kingdom of God if he was not in it. How can a man understand things of the kingdom of God if he’s not in it?
And to be in the kingdom of God, you have to be born into it “ye must be born again”. And you are only going to enter the kingdom of God by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ.
But in John 3:14, which is what I want to focus on… Jesus Christ referenced something that happened back in Numbers chapter 21… which Nicodemus definitely would have known… but didn’t understand at all. See, we can all intellectually know stuff, but not really “get it”. And Nicodemus didn’t “get it” at all.
But Jesus is going to give him light, and he’s going to understand for the first time “at the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light…”
Back in Numbers 21 which Jesus was referencing, the Israelites had been dying en masse from fiery serpents that had bitten them because of their rebellion against God. But Moses, under God’s instruction, made a serpent on a pole and lifted it up high for the Israelites to look upon and live.
It all seems a pretty unusual method of deliverance, salvation, when or if you have ever read this passage.
But Jesus is saying here that it’s a picture of him and his work on the cross which he was going to achieve, faith in which would be essential to personal salvation for each of us from the deadly poison of sin.
You have to understand that spiritual life comes from what Jesus achieved on the cross, the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s when you believe in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection FOR YOU that you are get saved, because he saves you based on that faith in him because of his faithfulness and love to us illustrated at that cross, and that changes your whole world forever, because he changes you forever, beginning with making you alive.
The problem is, people today are trying to save themselves, deliver themselves, free themselves, transform themselves and are seeking spiritual life and spiritual light every other way other than through Jesus Christ, and that’s why they’re failing and only ever will fail. The answers are not in you, the answers are in Christ. Look and live… look at… not look within.
Perhaps you’ve noticed and wondered, maybe or maybe not… but the global symbol for “medicine” and “health” and “healing” is often depicted as a serpent on a pole. But know that this is ripped from the Bible originally, despite many who would rather attribute it to Greek mythology aka “the rod of Asclepius”.
But the serpent on the pole became synonymous with healing because there was healing to any Israelite who looked upon it. But the meaning and message has been twisted, as it was even in the land of the Jews, because the serpent on a pole became an object of idolatry that Hezekiah finally destroyed. And most people don’t mind the idea of a Jesus that keeps them healthy so they can keep enjoying their life of sin… but the fact is, that’s not what Jesus came to do or offers. And also, a serpent on a pole has no magical or medicinal qualities at all, it was merely a picture of Jesus Christ who would fulfill its true meaning. It was a shadow, but Jesus is the substance.
Yes it’s a fact that we all need healing… because we are all dying and perishing. We all got bitten and we are all dying from the poison of sin. You sin, I sin… and that sin has struck us a mortal blow. Just look at your own life… it’s full of bad deeds, bad thoughts, bad motives. That poison has spread to every part of our being. There’s nothing not tainted by sin. And we need healing from the poison, because that’s what poison does, it kills you as it was killing them.
And so Jesus’ message to a man seeking truth is the cross here, he’s proving the cross from the Old Testament, and he’s pointing to the cross, and the work he was going to complete on the cross as the source of healing for every lost and dying sinner. The answer is at the cross… that is where you are going to see the light.
It is at the cross where God points to and provides the answer to the human condition of sin, where he provided and made a way… the only way, to the which end he sent his Son to save us, and where our salvation through Jesus Christ and our healing is found.
Maybe you don’t see the importance or relevance yet. And you can’t really understand until you receive spiritual sight… but that begins through faith. Nevertheless, to understand the healing that Jesus gives, and the healing that you really need, it is important to realize that the most important part of you is not your body. It’s your soul and spirit, and God starts your health journey there. Your physical body will get old and die, but your soul and spirit are forever.
I said at the outset that this was an unusual method of deliverance. And it does seem a bit weird. Perhaps you’ve ever wondered… why a serpent on a pole? And to answer that, you have to go back to Genesis 3 and see that mankind’s sin journey began with Satan, who the Bible calls “that old serpent”.
The Bible teaches that Satan caused man to rebel against God, disobey his word and sin. And that’s where death, pain, suffering comes from. Satan enslaved humanity. And if you’re unsaved Satan is your god and you are under his power… as the Israelites were here in the wilderness.
But you don’t need to be.
Because that serpent’s power has been destroyed by Jesus Christ in him dying on the cross. And that was being illustrated here back in Numbers 21 and now referenced in John 3. Because like when Moses lifted up that serpent for all to see, so Jesus made an open show of the defeated foe and enemy of mankind on the cross.
The Israelites didn’t know it, but they were looking at a defeated Satan and a victorious Jesus, who became sin to save us from sin. The serpent was defeated at the cross.
Satan and the works of Satan were utterly destroyed on the cross. That’s why when you believe in Jesus to “save” you, he can and does, and you do not need to live under Satan’s dominion dead in your sins and die and go to hell any longer. You can be free. You really can be truly free. When you’re saved, you don’t have to be controlled by sin anymore. Not through your power, but through Christ’s risen power.
John 3 and Numbers 21 gloriously displays the cross as the source of victory for Jesus Christ over sin, death and hell. What Satan and the Jews and Romans thought would destroy Jesus, was actually the very means by which Jesus would and did gain ultimate victory and all power in heaven and earth.
You can put Satan on that pole in your life today, show him the cross, trust him the cross, because he was defeated there. Him and all the works that he’s working through your life are obliterated in the person of Jesus Christ. Your mortal body can go from a sin machine into a vessel carrying great treasure that bruises Satan beneath the feet. With the brain that imagined it and the hands that did it, you can now use that same brain and hands to glorify your Saviour with your life… because you’re healed, because you’re made alive in Christ Jesus.
If you want to be saved from sin, and many are trying to be better and do better in life, there’s a cure… but the only cure… it’s Jesus Christ, and him crucified. The answers to life do not lie within us, they are found in Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross. Believe in him and you will not perish, because he will save you. He is faithful and true. Look and live!
Isaiah 45:22 “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
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Hi, my name is Joseph Zadow. I am a 32 y/o Bible Blogger. I was new to blogging once! God’s word is the best thing that we can be given, and once we have it and know it for ourselves it is both a privilege and responsibility to bring it to others! We are blessed to be a blessing! I am a sinner (for sure!) saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and I am a Lord Jesus Christ follower. He is faithful even though I rarely am to him. I believe the Bible is the word of God, and stake my life on it. My destination is heaven. As they say, I’m just a passin’ through this world… although most of the time it’s more like hangin’ by a thread in Jericho! I love playing sports – particularly cricket… I currently work on an orchard and a side hobby business of mine is growing vegetables etc – they are good for you! I love writing. Always happy to talk, so feel free to leave a comment. You can read more about me and my blog here – kjvbibletruth.com/about :)
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