As part of the redemption of the people from Egypt, God gave Moses a number of actions he could perform before Pharaoh. One of these actions was the ability to throw Aaron’s staff upon the ground and let it be turned into a snake. The snake is a symbol of death in the scriptures, for the person struck by the snake was destined to die. When Adam and Eve encountered the snake and were struck by his lies they brought death into the world. When the people of Israel wander in the desert and revolt against God, the Lord sends snakes into their midst and those bit die. Even Paul, when shipwrecked on Malta was assumed to be sentenced to death by the villagers because of the bite.
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. (Num. 21:6)
Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” (Acts 28:3-4)
But in this story, the man who carries around God’s death sentence is not harmed. As Aaron carries the staff that becomes a snake, no harm befalls him; he is allowed to live. However, when the world throws its snakes out to disprove the man of God’s superiority, the death of God (the snake) swallows up all worldly symbols of death, which come in its path.
What a wonderful picture of Christ, whose very death swallows up all death and takes away its very sting. Christ is the conqueror of death; by bearing death in his person, by carrying around death in his body, he destroys its power.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1Cor. 15:55)
What is wonderful about this truth is that the very person who carries around Christ’s death in their body is truly alive and no harm can befall them. Isn’t that what the word says when it claims,
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. (Rom. 6:3-5)
In fact, Psalm 91, though specifically applied to Christ in the temptation, is true of all who are clothed in Christ’s death and resurrection. The simple act of casting a snake to the ground and watching it consume all other agents of death is a powerful image of Jesus’ ultimate power over death for all who carry him around in their life. Let us never forget to keep the death of Christ close to our hearts and our minds.