Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
Then the people said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and pit it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he locked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
At this time of Lent we spend time contemplating the meaning of the death of Jesus on the Cross and His resurrection three days later.
The Israelites were despondent. The food was boring, there was no water and they thought they would die in the desert and they grumbled against God and Moses, and now to cap it all they were being bitten by poisonous snakes that were indeed killing them.
The disciples were despondent. There hanging on that tree like someone cursed and enduring so much pain, suffering and humiliation was their leader Jesus. He had shown so much promise, they were convinced he was going to save the world and bring in a new kingdom in which He and they would end Roman oppression and bring in a new world order. His enemies even jeered at him and challenged him to come down. He didn’t which seemed to confirm to the disciples the hopelessness of the situation.
God heard the contrite prayers of the Israelites and gave them the means to salvation. An image of the serpent who struck their heels and who was cursed by God was put on a pole. Any of those bitten who looked upon the snake lived. Out of despair there came hope of new life.
As the disciples looked upon their Lord and Master little did they realise that this dark time would be the source of real hope and new life which to them would be revealed three days later with the resurrected Christ. That it was for this very reason Christ, because of his love for them and for us, was cursed, suffered and died so that those bitten by the curse of sin could be made new and reconciled to him in new life. Christ’s death on the cross seemed to be a failure but was part of the process that was needed to destroy the power satan had on all that was good in God’s creation. It was a necessary step to destroy the power that satan wields in each and every one of our lives. Christ’s death was the way out of the poison of sin; his resurrection bringing hope and new life to mankind and all of creation.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the physical wilderness of Sinai to heal the stricken nation of Israel, so now Jesus is lifted up in the spiritual wilderness of Golgotha to heal the whole stricken human race. Salvation is to be found in no one else, no one who came before, and no one who will come after. There is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we can be saved. There is only one way, one truth, and one life. It is in Jesus Christ hanging on that cross to whom we look for our hope of redemption.
Christ’s death on the cross was a unique singularity which brought the past, the present and the future together in one place at one time; reconciling them to himself. Everything that came before led up to that moment and everything that has happened afterward is the outworking of it, looking back to it.
Christ on his cross gathered in and cancelled all the imperfections and iniquities of the past; giving each and every one of us a new beginning; a new hope. If we feel unworthy, if the past is pressing down on us, if we feel beyond redemption, then let us look up to Christ and place our burdens at the foot of his cross. He will surely forgive as he forgave those who crucified him. Let us thank him that he died for you and for me to bring us forgiveness and new life.
Christ is our ever-present hope. Because of his death, and resurrection, those who look to him can receive strength and encouragement in the daily trials and temptations. There is nothing that we are going through that he hasn’t experienced. His extreme suffering on the cross means that he understands and wants to comfort us in our times of suffering and despair. If we feel our situation is hopeless, almost too hard to bear; if we feel God is absent, then let us remember that Christ also felt abandoned. Yet he knew that God was present, for he gave up his spirit to him. If we are in that place we must look again to Christ on his cross, he is saying to us: “I am with you always, I am your source of strength, lean on me. Let’s see it through together.”
Christ is our hope in the days to come. Through his death we are reconciled to his Father God. Through His death he fulfils His promise that we who turn to him in humility and contrite sadness seeking a new life will receive it, and his companionship, in abundance even to the end of time. We will share his glory as God his father’s adopted sons. This is a great comfort to those who are approaching the end of their days, or their last hours. Just as he said to the robber on a cross next to his – “today you will be with me in paradise.”
That is a major source of hope – Christ on his cross connects this world with the next. All of creation is reconciled to God through the unity of the cross. There will come a time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth when Christ returns to claim his own and the devil prowls no more
So let us finish with the famous, but life-giving verse, John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
Christ is our hope. Let us ponder our past, repent and receive his forgiveness and love. Let us consider our present state, our temptations, our anxieties, our sufferings and our doubting, and give them to Jesus on the cross, in trust let him deal with them there. Let us seek his companionship for all eternity and live in joyful expectation of the future, and present thankfulness that he loved us so much that he was prepared to go through such torture and death to free us from the chains of sin which bind us.