Bruise in us the Serpent’s Head

This second-century (AD) carved head was once part of a Roman sarcophagus, a stone coffin inside which the cadaver of a wealthy individual was a laid to rest. Quite why so unpleasant a feature was arranged, and at considerable expense, is unclear. One historian thinks it belongs to the gorgon Medusa whose head and snakey-hair Perseus separated from its body. This would fend off evil spirits from harming the deceased’s soul. Whether this really is the reason, or whether some rich man simply wanted to impress his acolytes as much at his funeral as he did at his banquets, we shall never be sure.

Medusa's head is an apt picture for a spiritually dead human. Having been deceived by the great serpent, we spend our lives thinking and acting like him, his whispers and hisses echoing in our ears. We despise and loathe the good God as he does; we ignore and disdain His rights and the obedience we owe Him. Christ not only crushed the serpent on the Cross, but He crushes him in our hearts, too. In a sadly neglected verse of Hark the Herald, we sing:

Come, Desire of nations, come,

Fix in us Thy humble home;

Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,

Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display Thy saving pow’r,

Ruined nature now restore;

Now in mystic union join

Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.


Christ continues to bruise the serpent, even in we who thought, spoke and acted like him.

The wicked are strangers from the womb: even from the belly have they erred, and speak lies. Their poison is even like the poison of a serpent; like the deaf adder that stoppeth his ear. Which heareth not the voice of the enchanter, though he be most expert in charming. Psalm 58:3-5, 1599 Geneva Bible