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In the Book of Numbers, we encounter a profound story of God’s mercy and the importance of faith amidst hardship. As the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness, their patience waned, and they complained against God and Moses, saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food” (Num 21:5). Their ingratitude and lack of faith angered God, who then sent venomous serpents among them as a consequence.

These serpents bit the Israelites, causing many deaths. Recognizing their wrongdoing, the people approached Moses and confessed, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us” (Num 21:7). In His mercy, God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole, with the promise that anyone who looked at it after being bitten would live.

This event foreshadowed a greater salvation. In the Gospel of John, Jesus elucidates the deeper meaning of this Old Testament episode: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15). Jesus draws a parallel between the bronze serpent and His own crucifixion, indicating that faith in Him brings eternal life, just as looking at the bronze serpent brought physical healing to the Israelites.

The church interprets this narrative as a prefiguration of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. Just as the Israelites were saved by looking upon the bronze serpent with faith, we are saved by turning our gaze to the crucified Christ and believing in Him. This story also highlights the significance of sacramental signs in God’s plan of salvation, with the visible sign of the bronze serpent serving as an instrument of God’s healing power.


This biblical account offers several essential lessons for us as Christians:

1. Gratitude and Trust: We are reminded to be grateful for God’s provisions and to trust in His care, even in challenging circumstances.

2. Repentance and Intercession: The Israelites’ example teaches us the importance of acknowledging our sins and seeking reconciliation with God through intercessory prayer.

3. Faith and Obedience: Just as the Israelites were healed by looking at the bronze serpent in faith, we are called to look to Christ with unwavering faith.

4. The Power of the Cross: The bronze serpent prefigures Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, reminding us of the central role of the crucifixion in our salvation.

5. Embracing Our Own Crosses: As Jesus taught, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). We are called to embrace our own crosses, trusting that they lead to resurrection.

In our journey of faith, let us keep our eyes fixed on Christ crucified, the source of our salvation. May we face life’s challenges and sufferings with faith, viewing them as opportunities for growth and deeper union with Christ. As we contemplate the bronze serpent and its fulfillment in Jesus, let us renew our commitment to living out our baptismal call to holiness, trusting in God’s mercy and the transformative power of His love.

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