Summary: The following sermon is going to review John 3:14-15 and Numbers 21:4-9 to learn how to proclaim this Good News in a manner that the lost of this world might understand, be born again and receive eternal life!

Lifted Up

John 3:14-15, Numbers 21:4-9

Online Sermon:

Imagine what courage it must have taken for a Pharisees and member of the ruling council who were antagonistic towards Christ to publicly declare “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with Him” (John 3:2)! “Knowing that Nicodemus’ contemporaries believed all Jews would enter the kingdom of God through resurrection on the last day, the only exceptions being those who denied the faith and committed acts of apostasy,” Jesus boldly and in contradiction to this belief stated, “very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (3:3). Nicodemus asked Jesus how this could be possible, surely one cannot enter their mother’s womb a second time (3:4)? Jesus told him it was not the flesh but the Spirit of God, who in the manner He pleased caused the new birth to occur. It is at this point that Nicodemus pressed Jesus for a “deeper and higher explanation of the new birth but since he had an unregenerate heart” instead of Jesus talking to him in abstract terms that the spiritually blind and deaf cannot discern Jesus pointed Nicodemus to the story of Moses lifting up a snake on a pole to help explain how the Son of Man was to be lifted up on a cross to provide salvation for all. The following sermon is going to review John 3:14-15 and Numbers 21:4-9 to learn how to proclaim this Good News in a manner that the lost of this world might understand, be born again and receive eternal life!

The Bronze Snake

Since Jewish scholars spent a large part of their day studying the Pentateuch Jesus’ reference to Numbers 21:4-9 would have been familiar to Nicodemus. After the Lord had given Israel victory over the Canaanite king of Arad we are told that to keep from entering Edomite territory (Numbers 20:21) Israel traveled to the eastern desert area near Mount Hor which was described as “some of the most inhospitable territory on earth.” During this incredibly difficult journey the people spoke against God and Moses saying, “why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food” (21:5)! Due to their “disparaging comment on the bread from heaven being worthless (Pss. 78:24–25; 105:40; cf. John 6:31)” and an overall lack of faith and trust in God, “the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died” (20:6)! As they had done in the past when punished the people of Israel confessed their sins and asked Moses to “pray the Lord would take the snakes away” (20:7). When Moses prayed to God the remedy God gave was to “make a snake and put it one a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (20:8). God did not remove the snakes altogether but instead chose to keep them near Israel to discipline and test their “obedience and faith to look upon His given providential bronze serpent and live”!

Serpents of Death

The first thing we learn from the above story is how sin leads to death. Israel sinned against God because they found “His way” for their life detestable and worthless! Lest in hindsight we think less of Israel and elevate our own generation we must remember that ever since Adam God has given many over to their reprobate minds (Romans 8:28) because they craved carnal pleasure to make self and infinite choice their god! Since Israel considered snakes “unclean and personified sin” (Lev. 11:41–42; Gen. 3), God rightly sent fiery serpents to punish and bring their sin out into the open. The poison of these venomous snakes was excruciatingly painful for once it entered the blood it “became like a boiling river, swollen with anguish” and was always lethal. Despite knowing that faithful obedience to God led to His approval, blessings, and avoidance of His punishments Israel still preferred self to be their god. In a similar manner “If we forsake the Lord in spirit or in doctrine, temptation will lurk in our path and sin will sting our feet.” While the sting of sin may lead to temporary, carnal pleasures do not be fooled for the wages of sin is a bite of the serpent, the Devil, that brings about a fiery, death of everlasting punishment “where there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth!” Despite knowing such a fate awaits the defiant, self-pleasing person; like Israel many will live their lives with the carnal pleasures of lust in their eyes knowing full well this unquenchable and eternal pain and anguish will be their reward!

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