John 3:13-15

from River Walk  by BJ Richardson


No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. (John 3:13-15)


Relate: I’ve got a quick challenge. Open up a new tab and do a google image search (or yahoo or bing) for “medical symbol”. I’m willing to bet that at least the first 10-20 images you found were all some variation of this image on the right. Guess what. Those symbols are wrong. This image is actually the caduceus. It is the staff of Hermes. Hermes was the messenger of the gods. He was the one who most often crossed that border between gods and men. Hermes was also the god of commerce and trade and this staff was a representation of him in that function.BlueShield

Now do an image search for blue cross blue shield. The shield on the right shows a different type of staff. Unlike Herme’s staff that had two snakes as well as a pair of wings, this staff has only one snake. This is the Rod of Asclepius. Asclepius was a son of Apollo who was raised by centaurs. It is from them that he learned the medical trade and entered into Greek lore as the god of medicine. It was his rod, not Hermes’ that was said to have medical properties.

Even as I write, I am beginning to think that perhaps the first symbol is not so wrong after all. When you consider how much greed and corruption and profiteering that the modern medical profession wallows in (from insurance to pharmaceuticals to the gouging prices at hospitals themselves), perhaps the symbol of commerce rather than healing is more appropriate.

React: Whatever may be the case, long before Hermes or Asclepius entered into Greek lore, there was another rod carried by another man that God had gifted with medical properties. The Israelites had sinned. As a consequence poisonous snakes had infiltrated the camp and thousands were dying. By God’s command Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Any who looked on that snake were healed. The word look is ra’ah. This does not mean to glance but rather to gaze. It means to look intensely or to inspect. The Israelites weren’t told to just turn their eyes in the right direction but to really look to that serpent for their healing.

Jesus tells Nicodemus that He, the Son of Man, God, must be lifted up just as that serpent that Moses raised up was. When He is lifted up any who look to Him, who believe in Him, will live. His promise has a double meaning. The first is the cross. In a very literal way Jesus was lifted up from the earth and all who look to the cross, all who look to His sacrifice will live. The second meaning is exaltation. When we lift Him up, He will draw men unto Himself. God healed the Israelites in the desert, but only after Moses raised it up so that the dying might see. He has healing ready for those we know and love. Will we raise Him up that they might see?


God, I exalt You. With everything in me I lift You up. You are my healer. You are my Savior. In You I have life. The gratitude I have for all that You have done for me goes so far beyond words. Help me to not try to hide Your light. There is a world that is desperately in need of Your healing touch. There is a world dead and dying that needs to look to You. Help me to ever lift You higher that those I know might see and live.

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