Anglican Morning Devotion for 17 January 2022 Anno Domini
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:13-21; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
The Lord Jesus continues his remarks to Nicodemus, and to us. What does the lifting up of the serpent by Moses in the Wilderness have to do with our Lord’s being lifted up? You may read of the Brazen Serpent in the Book of Numbers, chapter 21. Briefly, the Children of Israel sinned against God in their complaints even against the Manna. So, God sent fiery and deadly serpents among them – perhaps related to the Fer-de-Lance, one of the most deadly of serpents. Many died as a result of the sins of Israel from the bite of the serpent. The people repented and asked Moses to pray the Lord to remove the serpents. So God commanded Moses to mount a brazen serpent on a pole and lift it up in the center of the congregation.
When any of the people were bitten by the serpent, if they looked upon the serpent on the pole, they would not die though they suffered from the bite. How does this illustrate the Passion of Christ on our behalf? “14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Our Lord died for us lifted between Heaven and earth. He beheld the Temple Mount from that vantage point as well as the hordes of mockers and hate-filled religious leaders gathered about to assuage their vengeful fervor against the Son of God. They viewed Him as a threat to their comfortable and cozy religious institution that had long forgotten the promise made to Abraham, or else chose to disregard that faith of Abraham. There were others, as well, at the cross who were there merely out of curiosity just as men gather to view a terrible accident on our highways; and there were a tiny few who stood beneath the cross out of the courage of love for the Lord – elect women along with the beloved disciple, John, who braved the displeasure of the religious zealots who watched their every move with suspicion.
How did the Brazen Serpent depict the work of Christ on the cross? Remember the Serpent of the Garden who brought sin and death upon all Creation by his vile deceptions? The Brazen Serpent represented the sins of the people nailed to the pole in the Wilderness. By faith, they looked upon their crucified sins and lived. The Bible does not say that they did not suffer from the bite of the serpent, but they lived in spite of it. Sin leaves ugly scars – even those forgiven. Our sin left scars upon the body of our Lord, too. The nails, the stripes, the crown of thorns , the lance that penetrated His heart – all marked the cost of sin upon our Savior who redeemed us.
When we look with faith and understanding upon the cross, and Christ crucified, we too shall live. But the scars of sin are completely removed from our souls and transferred to our Lord Jesus Christ who bore our sins:
“21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25)