Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against theLord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” Numbers 21:4-9 (NLT)
And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, . John 3:14-15 (NLT)
The history of the people of God (both Old and New Testament) is heavily-marked by a cyclical wandering away from their God, followed by catastrophe, and then turning back to the faith of their fathers.
We are a forgetful bunch!
Jesus used the Old Testament wanderings as a foreshadowing of what the cross would mean to those who are Christ’s disciples. It is clear that Jesus was predicting his death by crucifixion, and the reason for his death is so we might “look [to the cross] and live”.
In the desert, disobedient grumblers had to exercise faith by looking to the serpent on a pole. We have a modern day reminder of that in the symbol of the medical profession, representing the healing professions.
In the case of modern medicine there is a great cost when you come to the healer (don’t we all know that!). The cross of Calvary had a much higher cost.
Since the days of the first century, disciples of Jesus have used the sign of the cross to identify themselves with their Master. We wear crosses, put cross stickers on the back windows of minivans, and baptize making the sign of the cross. Millennial Christians even get cross tattoos (not for me; I hate needles).
The cross is an appropriate identification for those who turn in faith to God for mercy and forgiveness. Here’s how one writer thinks about making the sign of the cross:
"Draw an I and then cross it out." As we make the sign, we first draw a vertical stroke, as if to say to God, "Lord, here am I." Then we cancel it with a horizontal stroke, as if to say, "Help me, Lord, to abandon my self-centeredness and self-will, and to make you the center of my life instead. Fix all my attention and all my desire on you, Lord, that I may forget my self, cancel my self, abandon myself completely to your love and service."
That’s not a bad way to start a day!
For You, Today…
Whether you are into using this early Christian practice of “making the sign of the cross” or any like symbolism, remember today that the Word of the cross is best stamped on the soul.
As you walk through this day, pick up your cross as you follow Jesus; be his witness and show someone else how to look and live!