A Snake, a Pole, and a Very Good Friday

I’ve been searching my house for anything with the paramedic symbol on it for this post.  You’re probably familiar with the one I’m talking about: the snake wrapped around a pole that we see on the side of an ambulance.  Some know it as an ancient symbol for healing.  But do you know its origin?

Long ago, (please don’t let me lose you – this is truly awesome) after God rescued the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt (think Charles Heston and the parting of the Red Sea), they journeyed through the wilderness…

Now, here’s where it gets interesting!

On one of the many occasions the people complained against God and Moses, God sent fiery serpents (snakes) that bit the people, and many died.  “We’ve sinned!” They cried out.  They knew they had sinned in their complaining against God.  “Take away the fiery serpents from us,” the people begged Moses.  Moses prayed, and here’s what God had him do…

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” Numbers 21:8 NKJV

So Moses did, and anyone who looked on that serpent lived.

Now, many, many centuries later Jesus made mention of this account about the serpent and the pole on a dark night, speaking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus who came to Jesus to question Him.  Jesus explained to Nicodemus that a person must be born again to see the Kingdom of God.  And then He proceeded to tell Nicodemus (and us) how one is to be born again.  Jesus said:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:14-15 NKJV

Now, I’m going to admit that I’m often slow to process.  These passages about the serpent and the pole have always confused me a little bit.  Here’s why…

The serpent represents SIN
The bronze pole represents JUDGEMENT

So why did the people need to look upon SIN to be saved, the very thing that was killing them?  Wasn’t their sin the PROBLEM?  So it is with my life, isn’t my sin the problem?  I know all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  But how does looking at the problem save us?

And today, on this glorious GOOD FRIDAY, it came to me!!  It’s all because of this verse right here…

“He (Jesus) became sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV 

Jesus BECAME SIN.  He took on your sin, and mine and accepted the judgment.  The penalty for sin, according to God, is death.  Just like the people being bitten by the serpents in the wilderness died, we too die in our sin.  Not just physical death, but spiritual death and separation from God.  We MUST look to the One who was lifted up on a pole of judgment (the cross), Jesus, the Messiah of the whole world, to be saved, to be freed from the penalty of our own sin, to receive eternal life in heaven, to be born again.

There’s nothing good about death.  It’s an enemy.  But on this Good Friday, I have a Savior who knew no sin, a perfect man, the Son of God, the only One who could, who hung upon a cross for me and DIED.  He took my judgment.  He stood in my place.  What a beautiful act of sacrifice and love, all in order to save me, if I will accept it.  I could never save myself.  Good deeds can’t do that. Only Jesus, God in the flesh, could.

“Look unto me and be saved,” Jesus explained to Nicodemus, on that dark night, long before His death.

What a glorious work of Salvation!  As the song goes:

Oh that rugged cross, MY SALVATION, where Your love poured out over me.  Now my soul cries out, Hallelujah!  Praise and honor unto Thee.

If you’ve never looked unto Jesus, by believing, look on Him today.    

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10 NKJV

Medical Symbol Meaning






Form submitted successfully, thank you.Error submitting form, please try again.