‘Whoever looks at the bronze snake on the pole will live.” This is a symbol of the cross. “He who knew no sin became sin for us” (II Corinthians 5:21). This drawing shows people from all walks of life, rich and poor, from all time coming to the snake on the pole (symbolic of the cross) for healing. The snake is a symbol of sin, bronze is a symbol of judgement, and the pole is a picture of the cross. “Cursed is the one who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). Jesus was cursed for us, so that we might receive all of God’s blessings!

 Artwork by Ben Stahla. Copyright 2006, Desertsnow.org and its licensors.

The Snake on a Pole

God told Moses to do something very strange. God told him to make a snake out of bronze and mount it to a pole.  Then Moses held up the pole. God told the people, “Everyone who looks at the bronze snake on the pole will live.” The snake on the pole brought healing to whomever looked at it (Numbers 21:6-9).

When you see an ambulance go by, chances are it has a picture of this pole with a snake wrapped around it, painted on the side of the ambulance.  It is a symbol of healing for the hurt, healing for the sick, healing for those who cannot help themselves.

In John chapter 3, Jesus said, “As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up.” After that comes the famous verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one-and-only-Son, that whoever believes on Him (i.e., looks up at the snake on the pole) shall not perish but have eternal life.”

On the cross, Jesus carried the sins of the world for all time. He was filled, as it were, with the poison of sin (like venom), and took the judgement for our sins. This was painful and humiliating, to say the least. Hebrews 12:2 talks about Jesus “Despising the shame (of the cross).” But when Jesus was lifted up, He brought healing to whomever looked to him and accepted Him as their Savior and Lord.

When we look to the cross and believe, we will be forgiven and healed. There is a famous hymn about this, “Look and Live!”

Everyone in the world has been declared by God to need a Savior. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:8-9.

So why did God allow people to mistake Laura VanRyn’s identity? Why did people have to go through this trauma, and be put on display, as it were, to the world via the news media? It is as though Laura’s memory and dignity were put on a “pole of humiliation” for the world to see.

Laura’s story is terrible. The news media and the events that followed the accident “lifted her up” for the world to see. But maybe this was necessary to bring healing. Maybe this whole story of what happened to Laura and Whitney is being lifted up to the world so that people will find healing.

It doesn’t mean that Laura VanRyn or Whitney Cerak are a kind of “messiah,” but they are pointing the way to Christ. In life and death they are lights shining out to a dark world. When the world looks their way, they will see the Savior, who paid for the sins of the world, and who brought healing to the world.

I have had dreams on several occasions of people crying in the night, all alone, because they have lost a loved one and have no hope. They are in absolute despair. Perhaps Laura and Whitney are being put on display for the world to see to bring healing.

Jesus said this about himself:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

Because the Lord has anointed me

To bring good news to the afflicted;

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to captives

And freedom to prisoners;

To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord

And the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all who mourn,

To grant those who mourn in Zion

Giving them a garland instead of ashes,

The oil of gladness instead of mourning,

The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.”

Isaiah 61:1-3a, Luke 4:14-21.

And in John 20:21, Jesus said this to his followers:

“As the Father has sent me, so send I you...”

There is a tremendous need for ministry to those who have lost loved ones, especially those who have lost children. There is especially a need to give them real hope, not just empty words.

The scriptures are the only thing that can give real hope, because the scriptures go beyond the grave, where mankind is completely helpless. The scriptures give hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless. We have no power or understanding over death. But Jesus said, “I hold the keys of death and hades” (Revelation 1:18).

I believe that the story of Laura VanRyn (and Whitney Cerak) is being lifted up to the whole world for people to see the healing work of Christ in a situation that is humanly impossible to cope with.

I also believe that God is calling these families and friends who knew and loved Laura and who know and love Whitney to bring healing to the world around them. Will you answer God’s call? Jesus said, “The laborers are few” (Luke 10:2).

Do you know Jesus Christ? Have you asked Him to forgive you of your sin? If you look to Him, you will live, and the bite of sin will have no power over you. God wants to forgive you, no matter what you’ve done, and He wants to guide you, protect you, speak to you, and give you wisdom. He wants you to depend upon Him, and all the resources of heaven will be at your disposal as you come to Him in the name of His beloved Son Jesus Christ, the one who became sin for us, like the snake on the pole!

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; Whoever believes in Me will live even if he or she dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

Notice the two words in italics in the above verses from John 11? “And everyone who lives and believes in Me…”

“Believing” in Jesus Christ is the first step. And the next step is to “live” in Jesus. That means depending upon Him, living for Him, and asking Him for wisdom, understanding, direction, and protection. In this complex, sometimes very cruel world, we need Him just as much as the 5-year-old girl needed her parents in the following story.

The Ice Cream Truck


A 5-year-old girl was looking for her sunglasses.  She tugged on her Mom’s dress and cried out for them.

“Tell your Dad they are in the mailbox – the pair with the blue fingernail polish on them.”

The little girl ran over to her Dad, talking about her sunglasses being in the “blue box” (her own abbreviation).

“Mom said…” she cried out. Her Dad answered, “Yea I know.” 

He was filling the backyard pool, and walked around to the front yard. Sure enough, there were two pairs of sunglasses in the mailbox. He shook his head, and brought one pair around to his daughter and gave the other to his wife.

His wife responded to his puzzled look, and said, “I came home with the groceries and stuck them in the mailbox for safekeeping.” He shook his head and went back to filling the pool.

The little girl was trying to pull her swimsuit on over her head with her clothes and sunglasses on. Her Mom took her inside and a few moments later the little girl came running outside, (swimsuit and sunglasses on) and charged toward the pool, jumping in. There was a big splash, and she was having the time of her life.

Moments later she heard music, and she ran around to the front yard screaming for the truck that was slowly driving by in front of their house to stop. “Crene Cream! Crene Cream!” She cried. It was the ice cream truck. “Crene Cream” was short for “ice cream cone.”

The truck stopped, and a man got out and stooped down and asked her what she wanted. He was having a “conversation” with her by the time her Mom came around to the front of the house.

Her Mom paid for an ice cream cone, and the truck left. She explained to her daughter, “Sweetheart, I want you to wait for Mommy or Daddy before you come out here and ask someone for ice cream.”

“Why Mommy? The man was nice.”

“Yes I know, but I want you to always be with us when you talk to someone about ice cream or take candy or treats from a stranger.”

“Buy why, Mommy?”

“Because Mommy and Daddy want to be the ones who give you treats.”


“Why can’t someone else give me ‘crene cream?’”

“Because not every stranger is nice and we want to be here with you to protect you. We don’t want you to run off by yourself. We want to be the ones to give you what you need.”


The Source

The parents in this story were the source for the little girl’s needs and wants. They were also her protection. The little girl had the understanding of a 5-year-old, and the parents had the understanding of adults.

They wanted to be the supplier of her needs.

It is the same way with God.

God supplied our greatest need for forgiveness by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, who died in our place on the cross and rose again from the dead. God wants to be at the center of our world, our protection, our help, and the source of what we need.

When we choose another source, another way, and decide to be the boss of our lives, that is called sin. “S” could stand for “Solo act.” “I” could stand for “I want what I want when I want it,” and “N” could stand for, “No, I won’t let God be God in my life.”

Compared to God, we have the knowledge, the experience, and the understanding of a 5-year-old. The Bible says, “Don’t lean on your own understanding.” It doesn’t say, “Don’t use your own understanding.” It says “Don’t lean.”

There is a big difference between using and leaning on our understanding. God has given us minds to do great things, but we don’t know the future, we only know a few people in this world (compared to God), and our experience, understanding, and knowledge is very finite. If you doubt this, go to the nearest university library and walk up and down the many rows of books. The many rows of books are only a very small fraction of what God knows.

In Isaiah 40, it says that “His understanding is unsearchable.” Another translation says, “His ways are beyond discovery.”

Most important of all, God wants to be our source. He wants us to depend upon Him. He wants to help us with the problems and the needs that arise in our lives every day. When we act independently of Him, when we choose to usurp His authority, that is what the Bible calls “sin.” It involves a lot more than just stealing a candy bar or some other act that we would see as bad, immoral, illegal, or destructive. It is an attitude of rebellion, independence, and the desire to take all the credit for the good in our lives.

Honestly, we couldn’t even breathe without Him. He is the one who gives us everything we have. But when we become unthankful, independent, and proud, self-sufficient people who take all the credit for our lives, it is a sin. This attitude often leads to God allowing us to go through experiences that teach us just how vulnerable we really are.

Do you see the danger that the little child could have been in? Do you see how much the parents loved her and wanted to be the ones who gave her what she needed? God loves us even more, and guards us and helps us more often than we realize.

In Matthew chapter 4 it talks about Jesus Christ being led into the wilderness to be tempted (to sin) by the devil. There is a part where the devil wants Jesus to turn a stone into bread. What is wrong with that?

It was wrong at that time because Jesus didn’t want to do anything independent of His Father God. Jesus answered, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” After the temptation experience, it says that angels came and ministered to Jesus. This was not uncommon for them, and in the story of Elijah in the Old Testament, angels came and cooked food for him. It wasn’t wrong for Jesus to eat bread. But at the moment He was being tempted, the devil wanted Him to act independent of God.

Only God is big enough to walk through the valley of grief with the hurting, to supply the needs of those who are empty, to heal the hurts of those who are in so much pain they cannot even speak.


Pictures and stories, poetry and clip art copyright 2006 by DesertSnow.org and its licensors.

Read “Crystal Door,” the first article dedicated to Laura and her family and friends.

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Blue Ballerina” was written for those who have lost someone because of a crime.