Why did Moses raise up a serpent in the wilderness? In His famous discourse with Nicodemus Jesus referred to this symbol when He said: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” The record reads that everyone who looked to the serpent was healed. But why a serpent? Why not a nicer more noble symbol? What is Jesus trying to tell us?
Paul plainly informs the Ephesians that there is a spirit, who he identifies as the prince of the power of the air, which now is at work in the sons of disobedience. He further tells us that we once were among them following the passions of our flesh, that is, our self-for-self nature. But, by God’s mercy we are now made alive together with Christ.
How did we receive this new life? By what means were we healed? We looked to Christ. The scriptures relate that Jesus was made to be sin for us. His identification with us went so far that He became what we once were. More than that, He didn’t hang on that cross alone – we were there with Him. I believe it is crucial that we understand that on the cross our old self died. The serpent Moses lifted up refers to that old serpent, Satan, the usurper who indwelt us before we looked to Christ. He is now chased out of the temple by One who is stronger and who has now found a resting place within us.
It is tempting to make salvation into a question of knowledge, that somehow all are saved, and that everyone might attain knowledge about their salvation and hence walk in that freedom Jesus purchased. However, that is the trick from the Garden. Satan told Eve and Adam that if they ate from the tree to knowledge of good and evil their eyes would be opened. Eve sensed that the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. But this is not a battle for wisdom. It is a battle for spiritual supremacy. It is either or. It is black or white. And the battleground is us.
Either are we indwelt by Christ and thus his self-for-others seed is sown in us, which germinates and comes to fruition when that illusion about an independent self is shattered. Or we are indwelt by Satan, and his self-for-self seed in us grows up and becomes thistles and thorns, which are manifested as good and evil. What we are talking about is not a question about us and them, because all are embraced by God in Jesus Christ. Human kind as a whole is reconciled to God. But whether we like it or not, every man has to look to Christ in order to get healed from that inner disease, that corrupt self which is a servant of the prince of the power of the earth. The serpent raised by Moses symbolizes that the serpent of old must be evicted before we receive our healing, that is, salvation.