Daily Readings/ Editorial
Scriptures to be read before the sermon on Sunday, February 1:
Monday: John 5:1-15
Tuesday: John 5:16-30
Wednesday: John 5:31-47
Thursday: John 5:1-15
Friday: John 5:16-30
Saturday: John 5:31-47
When my grandfather, Charles Franklin “Dutch” Harp, was a teenager, he and some of his brothers were wrestling over a log down by the riverbank. He was on one side of the log and his brothers were on the other side. Dutch won and lost. He pushed the log over on his brothers, but there was a copperhead snake under the log which bit him on the foot.
An older man was fishing nearby and saw what happened. He packed Dutch’s foot in river mud, then he put Dutch on his horse and took Dutch home. Dutch’s mother washed Dutch’s foot and then soaked it in a pan of kerosene all night. Every time the kerosene turned green (that was an indication that the snake venom was being drawn out), she put new kerosene in the pan. By morning, the swelling in his foot had gone down. Dutch felt pretty bad for a day or two, but he survived the poisonous snake bite.
From then on, he said that he could tell if a copperhead snake was nearby. The way he could tell was that he smelled them. Several people in our small community attested to this claim by saying that they had been saved from being bitten by advance warnings from my grandpa and others who had been bitten by copperheads. I would not be passing along this story as fact had I not seen it with my own eyes. One day as a small boy, I was working in the garden with my brothers and grandparents. I looked up and there was Grandpa Dutch standing over me and my brothers. He said that we had better go to the house right then because he smelled a copperhead. After a few minutes, he came to the house carrying a dead copperhead, which saved us from possibly being bitten as well.
Whether or not you believe this unusual story, there is one thing that most of us can agree upon – we do not like snakes, especially poisonous ones. A Harris Poll reported that nearly half of the entire population of the United States said that the thing they feared most was snakes. Snakes beat out not just spiders and other creepy, crawly things, but diseases, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural and economic disasters.
The ancient Israelites also had a great dislike for poisonous snakes. Many of them had been bitten and died. All that came about because they had spoken against God and Moses on their way to the Promised Land. However, after the people repented, God sent a remedy. Moses was instructed by God to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Any Israelite who was snake-bitten could look at the “snake on the pole” and live (Numbers 21:4-9).
The only time that this story is referred to in the New Testament is in John 3:14. Jesus tells Nicodemus that just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man (Jesus) must be lifted up (on the Cross). And, everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (3:16). Quite a reversal, isn’t it – a means of death becomes the way to life? But to live, we must look at that place, the Cross of Christ, not as a place where a death occurred, but as the very location where Jesus has made salvation possible for us as well.