From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us.” So, Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So, Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.Numbers 21:4-9
The people of Israel were saved by faith. By faith, the Israelites believed that simply by gazing upon the bronze serpent, according to God’s Word, they would be saved from temporal death. Similarly, by faith, those who look upon Christ on the cross and believe in Him are saved from eternal death. “And just as Moses lifted the serpent in the desert, so it is necessary that the Son of Man be lifted, so that all who believe in Him might have life eternal” (John 3:14-15; my translation).
How can this be? God only knows. It makes no sense that simply gazing upon a bronze serpent saved them from a snake’s deadly venom, yet God’s Word made it possible. In the same way, those who believe in Christ—the crucified Word made flesh—are saved from sin and the deadly venom of that vile serpent, the devil.
This is why we have crucifixes risen in our churches. It is not merely the symbol of our faith. Hopefully, your church has a crucifix in the sanctuary. It is there for you to gaze upon and move your faith to trust in the Lord’s all-availing sacrifice for you (Hebrews 10:10-12). Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself” (John 12:32). These are people like you—to come to Him when you are weary and heavy laden, to receive rest, and to receive His easy yoke of grace (Matthew 11:28-30). When you are weighed down by the guilt and shame of sin, Christ removes these and clothes you with the light garment of His grace. When we look upon the crucifixes in our churches, “we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).