I was reading through commentaries this past week re: the John 3:14-21 text for this Sunday. It is a passage I’ve read and preached on countless times, yet, as with the rest of this Gospel, I always find more to consider.
One writer (can’t remember which one) focused on the serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness (3:14), pointing out the healing power serpents were thought to have, which is why the symbol (Rod of Asclepius) for medical doctors has a serpent on a pole. I had forgotten about this, but it does give a different twist to how serpents have been viewed. I recall a study that was done by psychologists re: people’s feelings about snakes. They put a rubber snake and a fake turtle in the middle of the road. As you can imagine, most everyone went out of their way to run over the snake, while people avoided and even stopped for the turtle. As humans, we have never cared much for serpents of any kind. But, for the Greeks and other ancients, serpents represented healing, wellness.
I find this helpful while reading the Numbers and John texts. In the midst of the suffering that comes either by sinful decisions or natural conditions, we need healing–physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Both texts provide us with a reminder that God has the desire and the means to provide such healing. John provides the reminder of Jesus’ understanding of this, of how he, the Son of Man, must be lifted up to provide it.
This Sunday and next provide a perfect opportunity to join John in pointing to the Savior who was lifted up, helping people understand the many ways he enables them to presently live eternally , experiencing the antidote of eternal life to those who are perishing.