Imagine a poisonous snake has bitten you. Its venom is quickly spreading through your body. You are in shock, your blood pressure lowers, your eyelids are drooping and you are getting weaker and weaker. You are thirsty, vomiting and nauseating, sweating, and you have difficulty breathing. You are about to die.
Suddenly, a man appears and tells you that he has a cure for the dangerous venom that is about to kill you. Desperate and in pain you ask for the cure – assuming you are not the type that’s too proud to ask for help. You have no choice here. If you don’t get the cure, you will die. Then, this man tells you, “Ok, here’s the cure. Look up and keep on looking at that brass snake on the pole. That’s your cure.”
What? This is preposterous, you would say. C’mon, are you kidding me? Are you joking? Is this a sick joke? This is absurd and borderline obnoxious.
The man looks at you and the look on his face indicates that he means what he says. You just need to look up and you will live. You are in so much pain that you don’t have the energy to protest or argue with the man. You seriously need help. Begrudgingly, you look up at the brass snake on the pole. As you look up and keep your gaze on the brass snake, you start to feel better and better. Nausea dissipates. The pain eases. Your eyes clear up. The sweat breaks. And finally, you get well.
Remember early on I told you to imagine this happened to you.
This actually happened. It’s a true story. The Israelites were travelling through the wilderness and were bitten by poisonous snakes. Moses, their leader, was given a very absurd instruction to make a brass snake and lift it up on a pole. All who were bitten would live if they simply looked at it! The ones who did, lived. (Numbers 21:4-9 NKJV)
They were bitten by poisonous snakes. They were bitten by something from the outside. The greater reality is that all of us are born with the venom. It lives inside of us and it’s killing us softly. The venom? Sin. Because we are in so much pain, we resort to all sorts of ways to try and cure this venom that is killing us. So modern people look for the cure in education, marriage, children, dieting, overeating, exercise, esteem, spirituality, religion, professional networks, titles, promotion, business tenders, profits, cars, money, drugs, girls, boys, peers, sexuality, race etc. We look inside ourselves or around us for the vaccine.
Jesus offers us the cure to the venom but in the most absurd manner. Oh yes, the cure is crazy, abnormal, absurd, strange and bonkers.
John 3:14-15 NLT
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so, must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
Notice what he says, I must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. According to Jesus, seeing is believing. To him, it really matters what you are looking at. The gospel Christian believed by looking up and continues to look up to the Son of man lifted up. It is a present tense, on going action.
The cure that Jesus offers us for the venom might seem crazy, abnormal, absurd, strange and bonkers. But that’s who Jesus is
Common sense dictates that when a snake bites you, you must go to a doctor who will inject you with a vaccine to treat the venom. That makes sense, naturally. But here Jesus tells us that our vaccine is in looking up to him hanging on a tree. A man who died more than two thousand years ago. A man you’ve never seen nor met. A man who you sometimes think is just a figment of the imagination of those weirdoes.
For modern people, looking up is so impractical. And more so our generation because most of us now walk with our faces glued to our devices. This is why gospel Christians take it on the chin your puzzled looks and mockery. We know it sounds ridiculous, even to us too. But we do it. We look up. And as we look up, the venom’s hold on us dissipates. It loses its power. As long as our gaze is on the man on the cross, sin has no power over us. Those times we act crazy is times when we have lost focus on the man on the tree. But, when we turn our eyes and look up, suddenly the craziness leaves and we become normal again. We look and live.
Paul, a New Testament writer, writes this to us, so all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT) This is what he meant. We reflect what we see. In this case, we see Jesus in his glory and then we are changed into his glorious image. Just seeing? Yes, just seeing. The absurdity and simplicity of grace.
Apparently, they say the longer you are married, the more you will start looking like your spouse. I don’t know about that. My wife Jenny is fair, and I am dark. So, I wonder what will become of us. Just kidding…
Hey, look and live!
That’s what grace looks like