We have all seen them or at least heard about the churches that literally pass poisonous snakes back and forth during a religious meeting, trying to prove that they can handle snakes. While these people are sincere in their belief, they are sincerely wrong in what Jesus meant.
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name, they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; Mark 16: 17,18
The Greek word for serpents means serpents, so how can I say they were sincerely wrong about handling serpents. The first rule of interpretation is context. What is the context of this statement? In Luke 10, Jesus is talking about challenging His followers to go out into the harvest fields continually! In verse 19 He says this, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you."
The word "trample" means walk with force. Jesus was challenging His followers to keep sharing the Gospel. His promise is, that as we are walking, by faith, to share the Gospel, He would protect us. We could travel the highway and by-ways and know that the Lord is with us. Both snakes and scorpions were a very real problem in Israel. One bite would be death or permanent injury. Wherever you are traveling for the Lord He will be with you, for you, go ahead of you and protect you!
Jesus goes on in Luke 10: 19b to say, "nothing shall by any means hurt you." The word "hurt" means, no injustice or no wrongdoing will be able to overcome you. God will always plan a way of deliverance.
For us today, this means we can travel in shoddy transportation, be in uncomfortable areas, do things that are way out of our comfort zone and he will be with us, protecting, encouraging, and enabling our success if we will trust Him. We see it every day with the ministry center, our various outreaches, and just ministering to people one on one. God meets our faith as we choose to trust Him, handling any snakes that may come our way!
By the way, this was me in Iquitos, Peru with an anaconda and someone who knew what he was doing with it!