Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Scarlet Worm

Psalm 22 provides a narrative of Jesus on the cross. Verse 6 reads: "I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised by the people." Some translations phrase it as a question "Am I a worm and not a man?" But this worm, isn't just any worm. This is the kermes worm, named for the type of tree it is usually found in. The Hebrew word towla, translated here as "worm," refers to a very special worm, coccus ilicis. Red dye was made from the body of this dried worm. As a matter of fact, the worm's name is synonymous with red.  In the Bible, towla is frequently translated as "scarlet."

This phrase provides us with some incredible imagery. This worm would attach itself to a tree and lay its eggs, protecting them with its own body. It would die in order to give new life to it's children. The body would burst, covering the offspring with crimson fluid which provided nourishment for them, permanently staining the tree trunk. In the same way, Jesus was nailed to a tree, the cross. He died in order that we, His children, can be protected and covered by His blood. We observe the Lord's supper, drinking the fruit of the vine to represent Christ's blood. Our spiritual nourishment comes through His Spirit.  Jesus died so that we might have new life through his sacrifice. 

The worms body would also be crushed and used to make red dye for the coloring of wool. This type of red dye was used to tint a number of symbolic items for the tabernacle of Moses. A red-dyed cloth was even used in certain purification ceremonies. Jesus was crushed for us (Isaiah 53:10). The word Baptism actually comes from the word that describes the way wool is plunged into the dye. There is a wealth of rich symbolism to explore here, But I want to focus on one specific characteristic of this worm: 

The Kermes worm was also known to have medicinal and anti-bacterial properties. Most "worms" in the Bible devour crops and life and steal nourishment in order to satisfy themselves. But the scarlet worm sacrifices itself to give life and nourishment to it's children and its broken body brings beauty and healing, not destruction and disease. Jesus' body was broken for us. He was crushed for us. His scarlet blood was poured out for us. 1 John 1:7 tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. He is our healer, our Great Physician. Jesus constantly healed people physically while He was on earth. He still does. But more importantly, He heals our hearts, heals our minds, and brings us new life. Just like the Kermes worm, Jesus died on a tree to bring new life to His children. Just like this worm's broken body brings healing, Jesus' broken body brings healing. But unlike the worm's offspring, we have to make a choice, to accept or reject His offer.  Jesus died to heal, renew, restore and allow us to be born again into new life in Him. Do you believe?

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