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Ephesians 2:1-10

Let’s face it. Snakes are scary. A recent Harris poll on what people fear most concluded that 36% of all adults listed snakes. The clinical term that describes this fear is called Ophidiophobia. Not only are they slithery and off-putting, but many species are truly dangerous. I recall as a kid traveling to the desert out in Arizona on a family trip. No one was bitten, but signs were posted everywhere warning hikers and sight-seers about rattle snakes. If you were bitten, and you didn’t have access to proper medical care, consequences are life-threatening. The venom contained by many species of snakes and other animals is deadly.

But there are surprising properties to some strands of venom too. Consider the following story, reported by National Geographic back in February 2013:

Michael decided to go for a swim. He was on vacation with his family in Guerrero, Mexico, and it was hotter than blazes. He grabbed his swimming trunks from where they’d been drying on a chair… and jumped into the pool. Instead of cool relief, a burning pain ripped through the back of his thigh. Tearing off his trunks, he leaped…from the pool, his leg on fire. Behind him a small, ugly, yellow creature was treading water. He scooped it into a Tupperware container, and the caretaker of the house rushed him to the local Red Cross facility, where doctors immediately identified his attacker: a bark scorpion…one of the most venomous species in North America. The fierce pain from a sting is typically followed by what feels like electric shocks racking the body. Occasionally victims die. Luckily for Michael…the bark scorpion is common in the area, and antivenom was readily available. He had an injection and was released a few hours later. In about 30 hours the pain was gone. What happened next could not have been predicted. For eight years Michael had endured…a chronic autoimmune disease of the skeleton, a sort of spinal arthritis. No one knows what triggers it. In the worst cases the spine may fuse, leaving the patient forever stooped and in anguish. “My back hurt every morning, and during bad flare-ups it was so horrible I couldn’t even walk,” he says. But days after the scorpion sting, the pain went away, and now, two years later, he remains essentially pain free and off most of his medications. As a doctor himself, Michael is cautious about overstating the role of the scorpion’s venom in his remission. Still, he says, “if my pain came back, I’d let that scorpion sting me again.”

Incidentally, recent discoveries have been made regarding the medical benefits of venom, even beyond creating anti-venoms for treating bites and stings. Venom in some scorpions as well as some snakes can actually be healing or therapeutic in certain cases, despite the fact that it’s also deadly when transmitted through bite or sting.

What a strange fact of creation: Something as deadly and poisonous as a scorpion or snakebite can also, under the right conditions, be a means of healing too.

Sinfulness, or separation from God, is like venom infecting our souls, and yet that same sinfulness when we see it reflected back to us in the perfect sacrifice of Christ Jesus, becomes a mark of God’s redemption of us.

Ephesians tells us that each one of us was dead due to the trespasses of sin. Each person is bound to a fleshly nature against which we wrestle. But God who is rich in mercy has made us alive in Christ Jesus. By grace, we are saved from the guilt and power of sin. We are raised up by God in Christ and seated in heavenly places, or in other words, we are made strong in faith and righteousness. And all of this is pure gift. It’s not the result of works. Rather, it’s the consequence of God’s immeasurable kindness and grace toward us, which is revealed to us in the saving work of Jesus. Sin destroys. But once we realize that sin destroys and that, by faith, we are healed and set free in Christ Jesus, our understanding of sin marks the beginning of inward tra