April 2, 2017 – Sunday
Read: John 3:1-15
Focus: vss. 14-15
1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “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.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
In Numbers 21:4-9 we have a brief story of how God used a bronze snake on a pole to save the people of Israel as the people headed towards the Promised Land. As you read through Numbers you will be amazed at how often the people grumbled about their situation and doubted the purposes of God for bringing them out of Egypt. In Numbers 14:11, after the people listen to the bad reports of 10 of the twelve spies sent into Canaan, God says to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” Moses intercedes for the people and God holds off on delivering his wrath to the grumblers. These incidents continue until this little story in Numbers 21 where the people are grumbling, once again, as they travel from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea. Verses 4-5 say, “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 wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!””
Have you ever met someone who seems to never have a positive word to say? Complain, complain, complain! It drains you of energy just to see them coming towards you. This was what Moses dealt with all the time and we are reminded, in the story of the Bronze Snake, that this kind of complaining shows unbelief and contempt for God as it ignores all He has done for them. In Numbers 21 God has had enough and he sends venomous snakes among the Israelites and they start to die off. They quickly understand that this is judgment for their words toward God. “Take the snakes away!” they said. So God provides a way for them to live through the snakes. He has Moses make a snake out of bronze and put it up on a pole. Whenever the people are bitten by a venomous snake, they had to look upon the snake on the pole and they would survive.
Looking upon the snake required faith. That simple act recognized that the affliction, caused by their sin, could be healed by trusting in God’s provision. Turn the pages of your Bible all the way into the New Testament to the third chapter in the book of John and Jesus references the story in Numbers 21. Jesus is talking with Nicodemus when, in verse 3, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” Nicodemus, a Pharisee and teacher of the law, doesn’t get it so Jesus has to explain it to him. So he goes into an explanation of how we must be born of water and the Spirit. When Nicodemus still doesn’t get it, Jesus brings out our story from Numbers 21. Except now it’s the “Son of Man” that must be lifted up instead of the snake.
The “Son of Man” is a reference to Jesus and the “lifting up” refers to his eventual death on the Cross. He further explains it by saying that those who look upon the Cross and believe will have “eternal life in him.” This launches John 3:16, perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
During this season of Lent you have the opportunity to look upon the Cross and see what Jesus has done for you. Will you believe and be saved? Will you recognize that God has provided for your greatest affliction – the affliction of sin and the death (both spiritual and physical) that results from it? The Son of Man has been lifted up and your salvation awaits. Look upon the Cross and believe.