"...they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all..." Mark 16:18, NIV
Jesus said this of his believers, just prior to his ascent. These two were packed in between speaking in tongues, casting out demons, and healing the sick...and at first I was ready to dismiss these two as things were relevant only to Jesus' day, or perhaps snake-infested swamp-villages. But then again, I can't do that...can't pick and choose what Scripture fits and what doesn't. This isn't candy-store Christianity, so picking up snakes or not dying when I drink poison must be something that I can do.
After all, we have the story of Paul being bitten by a poisonous asp and remaining unharmed. As for poison, I think I'd rather face that than a blazing furnace, hungry lions, boiling vat of oil...but I was still prepared to dismiss these because they don't really apply to me. Snakes are common and I hate them but,I've only ever seen one venomous rattler. And poison? The most dangerous thing I face is salmonella poisoning. And because I'm not the sort to dance about with vipers in a drug-induced trance, snakes and poisons are the last thing I worry about.
Yet, Jesus loved his parables and metaphors. Most of the things he said had multiple meanings, so is it wrong for me to look at these two dangers metaphorically? To say that "picking up snakes" and remaining unharmed by their venom might be finding myself in dangerous political or actual situations. And the poison might be all those things I see, or hear, or hear said to me....things done to me. To escape these things whole, untouched by their intended influence, to suffer no long-term damage...? That would be wonderful.
How did I never see this? All those years of scoffing at the snake-handlers and praying "any deadly thing shall not harm me" before dinner and I only heard the obvious interpretation. Sure, rattlesnakes are real enough, but are they as common as all the other snakes and poisons in our environment? So why didn't I think that Jesus could protect me from the metaphorical dangers as much as the others? Why did I never trust him to guard my person against them as I did those?