Symbols, Meaning and Indiana Jones

The latest Indiana Jones movie begins with Indy trying to get hold of the spear that pierced the side of Jesus after he died on the cross. It’s an ornate striking artefact and I won’t tell you what happens. Suffice to say there’s plenty of wham bam and derring-do as Indy tries to overcome the baddies. But watching this series of events my immediate thought was this – it’s highly unlikely that anyone would know what happened to that spear. The Romans most likely used the nearest weapon at hand to do the job. Nothing striking or of great craftsmanship about it. But it does tie in with the premise of Indy chasing precious artefacts that hold great meaning.
The thing about us humans is this – we can be so tempted to turn symbols into more than what they are. We can forget the greater thing they represent. When the people were crossing the desert in Numbers chapter 21, many of them were bitten by venomous snakes, so God told Moses to make an image of the snake and hold it up. If people trusted in God by looking at the snake, they would be healed. Jump to the days of King Hezekiah and we find that folk have kept the bronze snake and turned it into an object of worship. What began as a means of looking to God, has been turned into a kind of god itself. So good old Hezekiah takes the snake and smashes it. It’s in 2 Kings chapter 18 and I used this story as the basis for a gung-ho, Indiana Jones style novel I once wrote, The Twelfth Seer.
Jump forward again and we find Jesus talking about this snake, but instead of pointing people to it as an object of worship, he uses it as a kind of parable about himself being lifted up, and becoming the means of salvation for all of us. That what any special objects and symbols can be, they point us towards the invisible God, the living God who is greater than any box we might try and put him in. That’s we wear crosses (I keep a small wooden one in my pocket) they remind us of the ever-present God who loves us and gave himself for us.

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