Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jesus and Nicodemus: Third of Four Illustrations

Jesus had given Nicodemus two real life, earthly illustrations. Now they were going to move into theology. Since Nicodemus was a devoted teacher of the Bible Jesus moved to scripture by first identifying Himself as the Son of Man, a phrase that clearly indicated Jesus was the Messiah, and then giving Nicodemus his third illustration,
No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. (John 3:13-15)
3) Snake: This story is found in Numbers 21:4-9
The Israelites had to go around the territory of Edom, so when they left Mount Hor, they headed south toward the Red Sea. But along the way, the people became so impatient that they complained against God and said to Moses, "Did you bring us out of Egypt, just to let us die in the desert? There's no water out here, and we can't stand this awful food!"

Then the LORD sent poisonous snakes that bit and killed many of them.

Some of the people went to Moses and admitted, "It was wrong of us to insult you and the LORD. Now please ask him to make these snakes go away."

Moses prayed, and the LORD answered, "Make a snake out of bronze and place it on top of a pole. Anyone who gets bitten can look at the snake and won't die."

Moses obeyed the LORD. And all of those who looked at the bronze snake lived, even though they had been bitten by the poisonous snakes.
Lifted up had a dual meaning.
--> The first was Jesus being lifted up on the cross. The people had sinned, and they were under the condemnation of God because of it.

The snakes were their judgment. There were too many serpents, and they were too deadly to try and kill them. There was no known antidote They couldn’t just pretend they weren’t there -- like we try denial today, ignore a problem, maybe it will go away. Passing anti-serpent laws wouldn’t change anything. There was nowhere they could go, nowhere they could hide. They were unable to rescue themselves, and everyone would have died.

The bronze snake, nailed to a pole, was their only hope of rescue. It was the image of their sin of not trusting God, and calling His provision for them detestable. They had to look to that symbol of sin and judgement, and believe God’s promise in order to literally be saved from dying.

Jesus was saying “When Moses lifted that serpent in the wilderness, he was displaying a symbol of Me. I will be made sin for the sake of saving the people from eternal death.”

--> Jesus also made an allusion to the other time He would be lifted up off the earth, when He would rise from the dead and ascend into heaven, where He would be raised to all authority, and currently rules as the king in the kingdom of God. Believing in the cross and the resurrection is the same as believing in the snake in the desert.

One day Nicodemus would remember all this when Jesus really was nailed to the pole of a cross and lifted up to die.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment by clicking on the word "comments" below, and join the conversation


  1. And what a full circle to his faith that he was one of the men to tenderly pulled the nails from Jesus' hands and feet and gently lowered Him from the pole where He had been lifted up.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts