March 06, 2018
Bible Study Session #9: Made You Look
This week’s texts come from Number 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21. These are two of the stranger texts in the Bible… The first text describes a scene in which people complain to Moses about their painful trek through the wilderness. In response, God sends poisonous snakes to punish them. After the people repent, God tells Moses to put a snake on a staff, and anyone who looks at that snake will be healed.
The text from John then references the Numbers text: “Just 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.”
The comparison between Jesus and the snake is unexpected. In the Bible, snakes are regularly associated with greed, poison and evil. If Jesus is like Moses’ snake in the wilderness, does that mean that Jesus is somehow poisonous? And who plays the role of Moses in the second text? Who is putting Christ on a staff (perhaps represented by the cross…?)—the Roman authorities? If so, does that make the Roman authorities the ones leading believers through the wilderness, eventually healing us by killing the poisonous Christ and telling us to look to him for healing?
There must be more to the story… The author of the Gospel of John was an incredibly learned person whose metaphors tend to bring out deeper, hidden truths about God. So stay tuned for what promises to be a fascinating Bible study and sermon next week! I look forward to investigating this biblical mystery with you!
Bible Study Scripture
Translation from the Amplified Bible
4 They set out from Mount Hor by the way of a branch of the Red Sea called the Gulf of Aqabah, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient, because of the challenges of the journey. So the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread or water, and we loathe this miserable food.”
6 Then Yahweh sent fiery, poisonous serpents among the people; and they bit the people, and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against God and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that the serpents might be removed from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent of bronze and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten will live when he looks at it.” 9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on the pole, and it happened that if people were bitten by serpents, when they looked at the bronze serpent, they lived.
Translation from New Revised Standard Version
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”