And so to my final ‘postcard’ from Jordan. A visit to Mount Nebo, where Moses was given a glimpse of the Promised Land. A place where the Scriptures come powerfully to life: “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land - from Gildead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar” (Deuteronomy 34:1-3).
Moses was 120 years old, still full of strength and fortunately his eyesight had not gone. The view for us was hazy, but as I stood and looked out, verses about standing on the promises of God came to mind, and stepping out in him: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
The site is beautifully maintained by Franciscans and there is such a sense of peace. I was greatly taken by the stained glass windows depicting various scenes from the life of Moses. Most impressive, however, was the metal sculpture in the shape of a serpentine cross that stands on the terrace, created by the Italian artist Gian Paolo Fantoni. It recalls the bronze serpent on a pole which God told Moses to erect to protect his people from the poisonous snakes that God himself had sent as punishment. It was enough to look at the bronze symbol erected by the prophet in order to be healed and saved.
The previous lines I have quoted directly from the explanatory plaque. And then comes this detail: “The inspiring image merges the healing bronze serpent of Moses with the crucified Jesus who saves the entire world.”
Beneath the cross is this evangelistic verse for a world of tourists to see: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14).
Photos: (1) Stained glass window depicting Moses, from the Franciscan Chapel, Mount Nebo; (2) Dr McMullen at Mount Nebo; and (3) Serpentine Cross sculpture at Mount Nebo.
Dr McMullen is minister of West Church Bangor and was selected as moderator-designate in February 2018 and officially elected and installed as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at the General Assembly on 4 June. You can read his previous ‘postcards’ here, and news about his overseas visit here. You can also follow his travels on Twitter at @pcimoderator hashtag #pcioverseastour.