When I was a sixth-grader at John Nevins Andrews Elementary School in Tacoma Park, Maryland, I can still remember traveling with my parents to a distribution point, where medical personnel was giving all of us small sugar cubes containing the polio vaccine. Subsequently, I never contracted polio, and the disease has essentially been eradicated in this country.
According to the Center for Disease Control: “Polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the U.S. In the early 1950s, before polio vaccines were available, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year. Following the introduction of vaccines—specifically, trivalent inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) in 1955 and trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) in 1963 [when I got my vaccination]—the number of polio cases fell rapidly to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s” (www.cdc.gov/polio/what-is-polio/polio-us.html).
Now comes word this morning from London that the United Kingdom has approved a mass distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine: “Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use and said that it will be rolled out from early next week. . . . Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine—enough for just under a third of the population as two shots of the jab are needed per person to gain immunity” (www.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-britain-vaccine-fa/factbox-uk-approves-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine-who-gets-it-first-idUSKBN28C0X8). Reports indicate the United States will approve and release COVID-19 vaccines in the next few weeks.
But why talk about vaccinations at all? Because in advance of a vaccine roll-out, we need to remember what vaccinations are. Over the last two centuries, vaccines have been the scientific fruit of the medical community’s desperate efforts to eradicate or at least halt the advance of killer diseases. Plain and simple. Are they perfect scientific medical remedies? Probably not. But is there anything perfect on this side of heaven? Although come to think of it, one of the great Bible narratives is about a vaccination antidote that offered a 100% cure to those who took it.
The children of Israel are belly-aching against God and Moses (for the umpteenth time), but this time God honors their bitter complaints by withdrawing His guarding presence: “As the protecting hand of God was removed from Israel, great numbers of the people were attacked by these poisonous creatures [wilderness vipers God had been shielding them from]” (Patriarchs and Prophets 429).
“Piercing cries” rend the night air as these once-kept-at-bay killer vipers attack the tented masses. Humbled now by their act of rebellion, the people cry out, “‘Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’’” So at God’s direction, Moses hurriedly crafts a bronze viper and hoists it on a pole in the center of the community. God’s promise is simple: “‘Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live’” (Numbers 21:7-8).
And the story concludes, “Then when anyone who was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.” The divine vaccination worked perfectly. Those who looked, lived—healed by faith on the spot.
Jesus reminded His midnight visitor of the story and then declared: “‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him’” (John 3:14-15).
Everyone. One hundred percent of those who look by faith to the cross and their Savior for healing are healed of the killer disease of sin. Healed. One hundred percent. Period.
In this season of the Advent when we commemorate the coming of the Christ Child to be our Savior, let’s celebrate the Good News of His vaccine: “While we realize our helpless condition without Christ, we are not to yield to discouragement, but rely upon the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. Look and live. Jesus has pledged His word; He will save all who come unto Him. Though millions who need to be healed will reject His offered mercy, not one who trusts in His merits will be left to perish” (Patriarchs and Prophets 432).
There it is again—100% efficacy of His vaccine. So don’t be discouraged—take hope—look to Jesus and live. “Not one who trusts in His merits will be left to perish.” Not one. This Christmas. This New Year.