Summary: We,like Nicodemus, must gaze at that the uplifted Christ if we would be drawn to him and have the promise of "eternal life."
THE LIFTED UP CHRIST John 3:9-15
We were recently discussing I Corinthians 1:23- “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks.”
Our lesson today may be the beginning of that attitude of Jews in regard to Jesus. Living with him, questioning him, arguing with him… were in one category. But to be told that the long awaited Jewish Messiah would be a born in a barn and raised by a carpenter, would have a servant’s life and die young, and that at the hands of the enemy, was too much to swallow. Now, to add insult to injury, if you are one of the proud people eagerly awaiting your big day, and you hear that you can only be saved by believing in that Messiah who will be lifted up to die on a cross with common criminals, this would be a test of whatever faith you have.
The meeting of Nicodemus and Jesus resulted in a conversation that impacts us today. But Nicodemus has trouble fathoming the story line. He remarks, “How can this be?”-9 Jesus is disappointed, but probably only in the fact that the Jewish religion has gone so far in the wrong direction. See v. 10- Jesus surely has reason to believe that a Teacher of Israel SHOULD know about these things. He indicates to Nicodemus that if they continue on in the same vein, Nicodemus will not gain anything-12.
So Jesus becomes more helpful. He knows if He mentions the Scriptures, Nicodemus will know exactly where they were going. They would then be on the same path, heading in the identical dirction.
In His last hope of success, Jesus says, “Even as Moses…” “Ah, interrupts the Ruler, “now you’re speaking my language.” Jesus continues, “lifted up the snake in the desert.” “Right,” says, Nicodemus, “That’s Num. 21. This is part of my ancestors’ troublesome trip from slavery in Egypt to freedom in their promised land.”
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
The answer for the snake bitten people in the first case was a brass snake lifted up on a pole in sight of all. The answer to all sin-bitten people today is the Son of Man lifted up for all to see.
THE ABSOLUTE, IMPERATIVE NATURE OF THE CASE
The ONLY chance of reversing the deadly venomous bite was a look at the uplifted snake. Can you imagine what some might have said? “This is crazy. We are not kids; you don’t need to humor us.” Or, “Do you think we are mentally deficient? Do you expect us to believe that a look will mean life?”
Immediately we clue in to the fact that what is involved here is believing or having faith. This illustration called up from the Old Testament writings was designed for a purpose, the same purpose Jesus has already spoken of when he said, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”-12 . Nicodemus needed to become a believer in Jesus, in the fullest sense, if he is to experience new birth from above. The people in the camp of Moses would have to believe that someone greater than a fake snake had power to heal. Of course they did. They requested that Moses “pray to the Lord” for them. The Lord is the one who could give them their lives back.
Now it is the Ruler’s turn. Jesus uses the “just as…so” technique to drive home this point. As it was with the case of Moses and the snake-bitten people, so it is with all those suffering from sin poisoning. It would be for their benefit that “the son of Man must be lifted up.” The promise of the next verse is centered in the cross-event, not some general posture of faith. It requires one to believe that “there was one who was willing to die in my stead, that a soul so unworthy might live.”