Today we are continuing our study of this passage. I hope that if you are joining us and have not read Part I, that you'll take a moment to check out that post and then re-join us.
Yesterday we read the passage in Numbers that Jesus was quoting from, and I'd like to refresh our memory of those verses. The serpent on the pole, that Moses lifted up, was for people who'd been bitten -- they had poison in them, and without intervention (divine intervention) they would perish. The snakes in the camp were sent by whom? By the Lord. Why? Because of their sinful ingratitude and their rebellion against Him. God chose to rescue His people -- all they had to do to be saved from His wrath was to look at His provision, His way of rescue, hanging on a pole.
Jesus, lifted up on the cross, is the source of our rescue today. He rescues us from the poison of sin, and from God's wrath. He is the source of our eternal life. If we dig a little deeper, we will see that Moses was not the rescuer -- but he did lift up the snake. Who lifts up the Son of Man on the cross? If we look over further in John's gospel, he tells us in chapter eight that Jesus said it was going to be the Pharisees. Are you surprised? Look:
Jesus said to them,"When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He." (John 8:28)We can see from the thirteenth verse of that same chapter, that He was talking to the Pharisees. So the Pharisees will lift up the means of rescue, just as Moses did. And God will save His people.
Here is the part that we don't like to look at. We want to think of Christ in our usual way. It upsets us to think about what happened on the cross......remember in Numbers? The snakes were awful; they were evil; they were killing people. And the snake on the pole is an image of God's judgement on the people. So it was with our Lord:
"For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:2)And again in Galatians:
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." (Gal 3:13)We don't like to think about it, but on the cross, Jesus became like that snake; He was the embodiment of our sin, and of our curse. The sins of the world were laid upon Him. In becoming sin for us, He took our sins away.
When the people looked up at the snake, lifted high on the pole, they were rescued. The poison was taken from their bodies; they lived instead of dying.
What Jesus gives us from the cross is eternal life. Our sin and God's wrath are both removed --praise God! We are now His children and will never die, but live forever with Him in joy.
The message of the new birth is that in looking to the cross, and accepting God's mercy, we can have life, and that more abundantly!