Lesson Ė Jesusí Conversation with Nicodemus, Part VII, John 3:12-18
In continuing his conversation with Nicodemus Jesus has made it clear that unless a man has ascended up to heaven and returned he is not qualified to reveal heavenly things.
He says to Nicodemus in Verses 3:12,13, If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven
My, how this flies in the face of all that which is known of heaven reported in the obituaries and so called death experiences.
But Jesus makes it clear that He is the man who has ascended and descended from heaven and is therefore capable of telling and describing heavenly things to Nicodemus.
In other words Jesus gives Nicodemus his Bona fides, his validation of his position as teacher of heavenly things.
And in this light he brings to the mind of Nicodemus this event from Mosesí day which is designed to bring faith into the conversation.
Verse 3:14,15, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Now this event is recorded in Numbers 21:5-7, And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. 6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
So Jesus introduces the subject of faith for in this story of old, God was teaching the people about faith for without faith it is impossible to please God.
There was nothing magical about looking at a brass image of a serpent upon a pole in order to be healed from snakebite.
What was important in this story is what obedience to Godís word will bring.
Obedience is preceded by faith.
I believe God and therefore I will obey God.
It took an act of faith in God's plan for anyone to be healed, and the serpent on a pole was a reminder of their sin which brought about their suffering.
This serpent was symbolic of the serpents God used to chastise
the people for their unbelief.
The serpent, a symbol of sin and judgment, was lifted up from the earth and put on a tree, which was a symbol of a curse.
The serpent cursed and lifted up, symbolized Jesus, who takes away sin from everyone who would look to Him in faith, just like the Israelites had to look to the upraised symbol in the wilderness.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21, For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
The brass serpent was the exact symbol for Christ who was made sin for us and foreshadowed Christ as he was lifted up.
Jesus Christ says to take that lesson and apply it to him, because he too must be lifted up, for there was no other alternative.
But when those who are perishing look at him the life they receive is not just life for a few more years, as was in the case of those who looked upon the brass serpent, but life eternal.
Jesus in this verse verifies that Moses served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, but Jesus Christ is the perfect Way leading to eternal life.
Jesus is saying here that in order to obtain life man must be born again, he must be given divine life and that is given by looking on Christ who became sin for us.
But for this to be given the Son of man must be lifted up, and lifted up bearing the sin of the world.
For life can come only out of death.
The Christ must be sacrificed in order for the Holy Spirit to have a basis for his operations.
Eternal life cannot be given to one whose sins have not been forgiven and sins can only be forgiven by the Son of man being lifted up on the cross.
His blood must be shed to satisfy the decree that the wages of sin is death and without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.
Notice that Jesus Christ uses the phrase "the Son of man," in verse 14, not the Son of God here, because the sacrifice had to come from the race that had caused the offense.
A man had to be the sacrifice if God's justice was to be satisfied.
Only as a man was God's Son capable of taking upon him the penalty prescribed for the sinner.
And from this, Jesus continues with his instruction to Nicodemus in Verse 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Pick up the Gideon Bible and you will find this verse in 27 languages.
Now days you can hear this verse spoken in many languages on the internet.
It is the verse the little newsboy of the book The John 3:16 House said, I don't know what that means, but it surely does make a hungry boy satisfied.
And: I don't know what that means, but it surely does make a dirty boy clean.
And: I don't know what that means, but it surely makes a tired boy rested.
And: Now I know what it means, and it surely makes a sad boy happy.
This verse revolves around ten words.
They are: God, loved, world, gave, Son, whosoever, believe, perish, have, life.
This is the epitome, this is the highest of the highest exhibition of love that can be expressed.
"Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us"!
If God is love then love must find a way!
The fact that love found a way shows us in no uncertain terms that God is indeed love.
If God loves man, and he does, then his sinless Son must be sacrificed on man's behalf in order for the sting and bite of the serpent to be erased.
If death is to be conquered, only the ultimate of God's love must be given.
Christ is God's ultimate love gift.
Love was the reason for the death of Christ. Love found a way.
Love provided a way for men to be delivered from their sin, and to be born of water and of the Spirit.
Love stepped into the picture and provided a gift to man, Jesus Christ who paid the price for sin.
God said that the wages of sin is death and man works very energetically for the wages.
Godís justice demands that the wages that he sets for the work will be paid.
But the wages are too great for man to bear.
The load is way beyond what man can carry.
So God, who is love, steps in to pay the wages for man and presents His beloved Son.
This is grace, the grace of God.
The death of Christ was the supreme demonstration of God's love which found a way for the wages to be paid.
John 3:16 says that God so loved.
This is love demonstrated while we were yet sinners.
Not as his children, but as enemies of God, aliens from his grace.
We may understand him loving his children but that he loved us before we became his children passes our knowledge.
In Romans 5:8, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
And again in Jer. 31:3, "Ye, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee."
Notice also the little word, "so". (For God so)
This little word defines the breadth, and length, and height, and depth of his love.
Four dimensions, outside the realm of human thought.
Understanding this is beyond our capability.
Godís love is measureless, able to extend to the uttermost limits to include the giving of his only begotten Son.