And the LORD God said unto the serpent: I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall crush thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:14-15)
On this God-forsaken Friday, the serpent-bitten king is lifted up for all to see, the venom of death slowly paralyzing the seed of the woman. He appears pinned by the viper’s teeth, powerless in the grip of its poison.
He is the only one able to resist the serpent’s lies, old as Eden, and yet the only one able to drink the bitter drug to its dregs.
Eve rolls in her grave, and Mary weeps at the foot of the enemy’s staff of torture. The woman can reach out and grasp the bloodied heel of her son, feel the life draining out through her fingers. Now she knows the piercing that was to come. Now her heart breaks, and with it all creation, as all the promises, the very protoevangelion itself, seem smashed to pieces.
The Roman sword only proves the point – the enemy has at last swallowed his victim whole. Jesus disappears into death.
And yet . . .
What seems crushing defeat is a cunning twist of events on this hill of the skull.
For the serpent cannot be defeated by flesh wounds. His undoing must be from the inside out. And there is only one who can descend into the stinking belly of the old liar and live to tell the tale.
The sting of death is sin, and this is the sinless One – sinless to his final death rattle. As he breathes his last, he is swallowed down the human-shaped chasm of the serpent’s throat.
The snake has taken the bait. He thought Jesus’ humanity would be his weak spot, like all other sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. But this second Adam is not like the first, oh thanks be to God. In the writhing pit of filth, that hellhole where God is not, comes the God-Man Himself.
His humanity allows him entrance. His divinity assure him victory.
The snake’s insatiable hunger is his undoing. A hunger that would swallow God whole will not go unchallenged.
And now from within, the snake-bitten son’s mightiest weapon is unsheathed – perfect, pure, self-giving, all-giving, all-consuming love. It begins to pulse and throb, the only heartbeat in this tomblike darkness. It begins to burn, like glowing needles, like fiery double-edged swords, like raging infernos from the heart of the earth. And there, in the midst, is one walking like the son of God!
Only he is not walking, he is waging war. He is taking hold of every lie, every rebellion, every sin, every disease, every shadow, every soul-sucking power of darkness, and ripping them all to shreds. He is cutting out the forked tongue from its root. And the serpent writhes in agony and wishes he could spit the hell-bent Hero out, but he cannot.
And when the swallowed king at last destroys the ancient predator, he does it from the inside out, emerging on the third day from the putrid vomit of the snake, and not one hair on his head is singed.
The serpent’s power is no more, but the final move, this will be done in the daylight for all the world to see. The scaly beast can no more even whimper in the dust when the Warrior raises his heel, and with a heaven-shaking roar crushes the skull of the snake.
Oh, death, where is your sting?
Oh, hell, where is is your victory?
Oh, snake, where is your tongue?
Death has been swallowed up in victory!
And what is the sign of this victory?
The God-Man lifted up on a cross.
The God-Man who even yet bears the scar on his heel, but at whose feet lies the skull of the snake.
This is love. Behold your God.
Look, and believe!
Look, and be healed!
Look, and be freed from the power of the curse!
Look, and live!
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up: That whoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.