Lectionary Reading: Luke 10:1-11; 16-20 (NRSV)
Ever been to a snake handling? They were more prevalent in the 20th century in some holiness churches where some of the church members would prove their faith in God’s protection by handling venomous snakes.
While this may seem ludicrous, those with a more literal interpretation may have looked at this Sunday’s reading for justification.
Luke speaks in verse 19 of Jesus giving his disciples the “authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.”
Likewise, Mark’s Gospel states something similar in 16:18 when Jesus refers to future disciples being able to “pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them.”
Snakes often represent evil in the Bible starting with Adam and Eve in Genesis. While God’s people were on the move to the Promised Land, their own complaining caused venomous serpents to attack them in the desert as recorded in Numbers 21:4-9. John’s Gospel refers to this in chapter 3 just prior to verse 16 which may be one of the most famous passages in the Bible.
The apostle Paul suffers no ill effects after being bitten by a snake in Acts 28:3-6. They name the reptile as a viper which is venomous.
As we go back to Luke’s account, we see snakes associated with the “power of the enemy”. What does it mean for God’s people to have authority over evil? I do not think that it means that we should participate in flashes of “faith” where we make a show of our belief in God’s protection.
As interpreters of the Bible, we conclude that handling venomous snakes in worship would not be in accordance with God’s will as Jesus reminds us not to put God to the test in multiple Gospel accounts. Rather the venomous snake is a metaphor of evil. As we are in Christ, evil has no sway over us. This doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer on account of evil. The passion of our Lord quickly sets this thought aside. Rather, it may mean that as we remain in Christ, we are able to vanquish the sway of evil. We do not fear that evil will unduly influence us in our actions. In this way, we trod on the serpents and scorpions that we encounter in life. We put them under foot and our ankles remain unscathed.
After two solid weeks of church camp, I’m looking forward to being back in the pulpit on Sunday. One of the best things about having this emersion in youth culture is that I’m able to stay young (at heart) and to share this indirectly with the rest of the congregation. It is important for us to remain aware of what is happening with the next generations so that we might better communicate the Good News with them. This hopefully helps us to hear it in a fresh way as well which keeps us all young (at heart).
I hope you’ll join us this Sunday in Edmond. Trey and our Worship on Hurd band will be starting in Guthrie this Sunday at 8:30 as well before heading back here for the 10:50 service. Please keep this new venture in your prayers and send us names of any people in Guthrie that you know that do not regularly attend worship anywhere. We are excited for this new chapter in ministry together!
Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Russell Lee (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons.