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The Bronze Snake and the Cross

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

One thing I love about doing Bible study with my Teleios brothers is the occasional epiphany. By this, I mean a discovery in the text that illuminates your understanding of, and appreciation for, God's message. Many years ago, my Teleios group was studying the gospel of John and this week's reading was chapter 3. Due to its widespread popularity, John 3:16 could've easily turned into the focus of our discussion and praise. That verse's light is so powerful that we, figuratively speaking, had to cover it with our hands in order to see what's around it. And that's when we looked closer at verses 14-15:

"and 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."

At that point, one of the wiser members of our group pointed us to Numbers 21:4-9. In that short story, Moses and the Israelites were in the wilderness following the exodus. When the people complained and longed to go back to Egypt, they were attacked by poisonous snakes. They repented and pleaded with Moses to ask for God's intercession. God hears their prayers and commands Moses to perform a rather bizarre task: make a bronze snake and set it on a pole. The reason? "Everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live."

(Sidenote: this scene is marvelously depicted in The Chosen S1:E7. As a visual learner, I was particularly struck by their usage of a cross instead of what our modern culture would imagine as a simple pole. After all, a cross is a much more practical method for mounting a heavy bronze snake.)

Turning back to John's gospel, Jesus is clearly drawing a parallel between the bronze snake on a pole and his body on the cross. In terms of symbolism, the snake is a picture of sin in the Bible and the bronze is the metal associated with judgment. So, let us rejoice in the wonderful news that we can be healed and have eternal life by looking upon the cross and, through faith, believing in Jesus.

Brian Causey, Teleios Board Member

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