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Humility at Easter

I wonder what your memories of school dinners are? Perhaps features such as 'brown', 'sloppy', and 'served with Jelly' come to mind? Well if that’s the case, let me start by clarifying that Warwick School food is nothing like that! Each day we are treated to a veritable banquet of spice, seasoning, flavour and colour. Which is why I was so surprised to hear two boys, tucked away in the corner of the dining room, grumbling about their food. Intrigued, I asked what the problem was, to which I was told it was “too granola”. While I’m still not entirely sure what that means, the whole episode got me thinking about a story in the Bible recorded in the Book of Numbers, about a group of people who grumbled about their food, over 3000 years ago:

We’re told that the people of Israel were walking across a desert, fleeing slavery in Egypt, and heading to the promised Land of Canaan. God had miraculously provided bread from heaven for them, but despite this, some of the Israelites start grumbling, and cursed God for the 'miserable food' he had given them!

God’s response is swift and severe; he sends a swarm of venomous snakes that start biting the Israelites, leaving several of them dead.

Very quickly the Israelites realise they are in trouble. They turn to their leader, Moses, and beg him to ask God to take away the snakes. So Moses prays, and God instructs him: 'Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live'. 

Had the Israelites not been in such a desperate state, they might have questioned this totally bizarre command. But given the urgency of the situation, they do it, and sure enough anyone who was bitten by a snake, but looked up to the Bronze Snake, lived.

And that is that last we are told about this strange little story in the Old Testament. What was the significance of the snake? What was going on? No one knew the answer to these questions, until, speaking well over 1000 years after the events in the desert, Jesus explained:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him”  - John 3:14-15

In these verses, Jesus explains that there was method in the madness; The Bronze Snake was a picture of what Jesus was going to do on the cross; just as the Israelites could be saved from their punishment by looking to the snake, so all of humanity can be saved from our sin, by looking to Him.

So it turns out that grumbling about food is right at the heart of the Easter story! The ingratitude of the Israelites was so offensive to God that he sent venomous snakes as punishment. But the mercy of God meant he also provided a way for them to be forgiven. And it was no coincidence that the figure on the pole was a snake, because as Jesus died, he took our sin on himself, becoming a 'curse', so that we could know complete forgiveness, and live.

I wonder, do we take our grumbling seriously enough? Would we be so quick to grumble about God’s provision in our lives if we knew He might send venomous snakes! This question is brought into even sharper focus when we consider the millions of people, not least in Ukraine, who don’t enjoy the basic things we do. How can we possibly grumble about our circumstances given all that they are living through?

And yet we do grumble. It is practically a national pastime. Which means we need to look to the Bronze Snake in the desert if we are to be forgiven. Praise God that despite our moaning and grumbling, God still sent Jesus to be “lifted up” on the cross, so that we can be forgiven, and live.

Have a very Happy Easter.


Mr J Soper | School Chaplain and Head of Academic Music