Sunday, May 9, 2010

Easter 6 Numbers 21:4-9

And they pulled out from Mt. Hor, the way of the Sea of Reeds to go around the land of Edom; and the souls of the people were despondent on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in a wilderness in which there is no bread, and there is no water, and our soul is at its end in this bread of starvation. And Yahweh set free among the people snakes of fire, and they bit the people, and many people from Israel died. And the people came to Moses, and they said, "We have sinned, for we spoke against Yahweh and against you; pray to Yahweh and He may take away from us the snakes." And Moses prayed on behalf of the people. And Yahweh said to Moses, "Make to yourself a fiery one, and place it on a pole, and it will be, everyone bitten and he looks to it, he will live. And Moses made a snake of bronze and he set it on a pole, and it was, if a fiery one bit a man, and he looked to the snake of bronze, he lived.

It may be an old wives' tale, but some say that the best hangover cure is "hair of the dog that bit you". It seems so strange, for you wouldn't be foolish enough to try and grab hair off a dog that has already taken a bite from your hide! If too much drinking is what has bit you, how could drinking more help? Usually folks are smart enough to avoid altogether those things that hurt them. But when those snakes with a fiery bite afflicted the Israelites, God chose a bronze snake on a pole for their remedy!

Scales of the snake that bit you seems a strange cure for a deadly venom, especially since God had already written out on the two tablets of commandments that they should make no graven image of anything in or under heaven. But what Moses made was no graven image. It was an image, and it was engraved into a piece of bronze, but it was no idol for the people to worship. This was no false god the people were looking to. This was the answer to their prayer! This was God in action to save!

This was not just an answer to the Israelite's prayer, but to the prayers of Jesus' disciples as well. Jesus tells them that if they ask the Father for anything, He'll give it to them in Jesus' name. This is powerful stuff! Jesus was about to overcome the world for them, in a peculiar, but familiar way. Just as the bronze serpent was lifted up by Moses, so too would Jesus be lifted up, so that those looking to Him in faith would receive eternal life! At the cross Jesus would become the answer to their prayers!

For you too, it is in looking toward an ugly sight that your otherwise starving souls are saved. There is nothing attractive about the scene of Calvary, much like the Israelites looking at an image of the snake which had just bit them. The image of Jesus' beaten body nailed to the cross, and His bloody sacrifice there is actually repulsive to our senses. But it is only by looking there, through faith, are you saved. Only there do you see redemption. Only in Jesus lifted up on the tree do you have life!

On that cross Jesus becomes snake-bit in your place. As God first cursed the serpent in the Garden of Eden, He told him that he would strike a deadly bite on the Seed of Eve's heel. Jesus is that Seed of Eve Whom Satan snake-bit with your sin and condemnation at Calvary. Jesus willingly received that bite, He who knew no sin of His Own became your sin there as He was lifted up on the tree. That bronze serpent foreshadows Jesus Who bore all that poison-venom and its deadly consequence.

Yet Jesus is also that Seed Who would strike the crushing blow on the head of that snake in the grass. Christ did just that at the cross, overcoming sin, death and the devil once and for all there. Jesus even conquers death at the cross, by His Own death in your place. He has destroyed death's hold on you forevermore! Your sins He bore, your condemnation He received, and your death He experienced. To prove His Calvary victory for you, Jesus raised Himself to life again on the third day–Easter Sunday!

Moses lifted up that bronze snake in the Sinai wilderness as a type of Christ for the Israelites. God was directing their attention far into the future when Jesus would be lifted up for their salvation. Their trust was not in an inanimate object, but in God their Savior. The Israelites were trusting in Christ their Redeemer, the one who could conquer death for them and grant them the gift of life. Looking up at that pole was God's way of helping them look forward, into the future, to the lifting up of their Lord.

You are similarly blessed to look backward to the lifting up of Christ for you on the cross. Whether you've grumbled against God or His spokesman in this place (your Pastor), you seek forgiveness. Yet you won't starve to death in the wilderness of your sins. Jesus is your Bread of Life. His body lifted up is given to you to eat, and your drink is His blood shed for you there, in the cup. Your eyes of faith look up to the cross, where Jesus brings you His gifts from Calvary each Sunday and Festival Day. Amen.

Hymns for today from LSB:
#469 Christ the Lord is Risen Today!
#766 Our Father Who From Heaven Above
#490 Jesus Lives the Victory Won!

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