We have been studying the gospel of John in our Sunday School class. This week our focus was parts of John 3. As is my way, I take the scripture of the teachers and pastors and look for myself at the Word they have given. I meditate on it and study it; I write about it and sometimes draw pictures based on it. More than anything I want the Words of the Lord and those that others speak that are His true Words to be alive in me. God speaks to our leaders but the Bible says His sheep know His voice and so I know He speaks and all with a listening ear can hear something from the Lord as well. So in my own study this week the Lord has had this lamb focused on John 3:14-18.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
4 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. 5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. 6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
Numbers was familiar to Nicodemus. He knew the scriptures very well. This passage is the story of sin, for the nation rebelled against God and had to be punished. God sent fiery serpents that bit the people and many died. It is also a story of grace. Moses interceded for the people, and God provided the remedy. God told Moses to make a brass serpent and lift it up on a pole for all to see. Any person that was stricken who looked at the serpent on the pole would immediately be healed. So then, it is also a story of faith. When the people looked, by faith, they were saved.
In this passage the verb lifted up has two meanings. It means to be crucified but also to be glorified and exalted. We can see that in these passages:
- Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. ~ John 8:28
- And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die. The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? ~ John 12: 32-34
In other passages of the gospel of John, John points out that our Lord’s crucifixion was actually the means of His glorification!
- And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. ~ John 12:23
The cross was not the end of His glory; it was the means of His glory!
- Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.~ Acts 2:33
Just as the serpent was lifted up on that pole, so the Son of God would be lifted up on a cross. Why? To save us from sin and death. In the camp of Israel, the solution to the “serpent problem” was not in killing the serpents, making medicine for the bites, pretending they were not there, passing more laws or climbing up the pole. The answer was in looking by faith at the uplifted serpent.
In my study of these passages I was taken to another verse of scripture in Isaiah 45:22: Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else, which reminded me of the following true story –
On January 6, 1850, a snowstorm shut down much of the city of Colchester, England. A teenage boy was unable to get to the church he usually attended so he when instead to a nearby Primitive Methodist chapel. There a seemingly unprepared layman was substituting for the absent preacher. His text was Isaiah 45:22.
For many months the young teenager had been miserable and under deep conviction, but though both his father and grandfather were preachers and so he had been reared in church, he did not have the assurance of salvation.
The substitute minister did not have much to say, so he kept repeating the text. “A man need not go to college to learn to look,” he shouted. “Anyone can look – a child can look!” About that time, he turned to the visitor sitting to one side, and he pointed at him and said, “Young man, you look very miserable. Young man, look to Jesus Christ!”
The young man did look by faith, and that was how the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon was converted.
The difference between perishing and living, and between condemnation and salvation, between bondage and freedom is faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this world in love, as our Savior, and He died for us on the cross. He became the uplifted serpent. The serpent in Moses’ day brought physical life to dying Jews, but Jesus Christ gives eternal life to anyone who trusts Him. He has salvation for a whole world! But not only does He give salvation, but He still gives healing, He delivers, He restores! He is according to Hebrews 13:8, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
Look to HIM!
Lift Jesus Higher!