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Jesus and the Serpent

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Jesus and the Serpent

John 3:14-17 (KJV)
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.





This passage has one of the best known verses in it, mainly 3:16. But I am going to center on verse 14. In fact I had one basic question when I read this verse. Why would Jesus compare himself with a serpent? Why not something else? Or someone else?



Instead of comparing Himself with something else Jesus chose a serpent. And a serpent that is mentioned, as far as I have found, only three times. This is the third time that this serpent is mentioned in the Bible.



So now the question becomes more of, what is the serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness. The answer is found in Numbers 21:8,9.



Numbers 21:8-9 (KJV)

8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.



But let’s go back a few verses to see why this brass serpent came about. Israel had just got done defeating an army. God was taking them in a way they did not particularly like. So they started to do what they always did, they complained about God and Moses. How they were brought of Egypt to die. They did not like the food, they way they were being led, and they did not like leadership (again).



God, in order to chastise them, sent in fiery or copper looking serpents. After some of the people got bit and died, they went to Moses and confessed. They confessed to their murmuring against God and himself. They asked Moses to go to God to pray for the removal of the serpents from the camp. God instead told Moses to have a brass serpent made and placed on a pole and set up in the middle of the camp. He also told Moses to tell the people that anyone who got bit was to look towards the middle of the camp and look upon this brass serpent. Anyone who did this would live. This can be read in Numbers 21:1-9.



Now this is the first time that this serpent is mentioned. The third time is mentioned to Nicodemus when Jesus was talking to him about being born again. So where is the third?

The third time is mentioned in 2 Kings 18:4.



2 Kings 18:4 (KJV)

4 He removed the high places, and brake the imagesc, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.



The second time it is mentioned is when Hezekiah was cleaning house (so to speak) and destroyed the “brasen serpent that Moses had made”. Now we have a little of the background. But the question still remains, “Why did Jesus choose the serpent to compare himself to?”



Especially when you look throughout scripture and see that the serpent is usually associated with evil. Most notably the devil. (Genesis 3:1; 2 Cor. 11:3; Revelation 12:9, 20:2) The serpent is called crooked. (Job 26:13; Isa. 27:1) All the way at the beginning, we see that the serpent was the first creature that had been cursed. (Gen. 3:14) There are many more examples of where we see that the serpent is clearly associated with evil.



And why did God want it made of brass? Because brass is associated with judgment. This is seen in many of the items made for the temple. Most if not all of the utensils were made of brass that dealt with the altar. The altar itself was made of brass as was the brass (bronze) sea. These things dealt with sacrifices, of which many had something to do with the forgiveness of sins. Or as it was back then, taking the sins and moving them back one year. (Most notably on the day of atonement.)



While thinking on the question of why Jesus would compare Himself to a brass serpent, the word curse came to my mind. The serpent was the first of all creation that had been cursed by God (Gen 3:14,15) God used a picture of the result of their sin to cure them when they focused on it. (Numb. 21:8-9) The people sinned. God sent the judgment of the serpents. God provided a way out of the judgment.



Now man sinned. (Gen 3) Man became his own judgment for that sin. Therefore God had to use a likeness of this judgment as he had done in Numbers 21.

In the instructions that God gave to Moses to give the people as laws, rules and regulations, God had said something about those people that had been hung.



Deuteronomy 21:23 (KJV)

23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.



God said that the “body was not to remain upon the tree”, but shall be buried the day it was hung. Why? For he that is hanged is accursed of God. In the Miriam Webster dictionary we see that accursed can mean being under or as if under a curse. Galatians 3:13 says:



Galatians 3:13 (KJV)

13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:



Now was Christ cursed? By no means. The bible has warnings about calling Christ accursed or being a curse. But the one who knew no sin had to be like one that had sinned. God had to come in the likeness of man in order to save man. He had to appear to be under a curse to free us from the curse. (Galatians 3:13)



The answer to the question of why did Jesus choose to compare himself to a serpent, is this. To free us from the spiritual poison placed in us by the serpent who beguiled Eve in the Garden of Eden. So we can live in the relationship that God wanted us to have from the beginning. But the best answer itself can be found in the main text itself.



John 3:14-17 (KJV)

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.



God does not want us to die. He wants to free us from the poison that is passed down from generation to generation. He holds out his hand calling us to him. Jesus has his hands outstretched. They both offer us the same thing, everlasting life. Jesus became as one of us in likeness. He retained who He is, sinless. But he became as one filled with sin, to do what no other sacrifice could do. Redeem us to himself, through his own blood. To bring us once again face to face as we were at the beginning with God.

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