February 9 I Thursday
“‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things?’” —John 3:9-10
Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, went to meet Jesus in the middle of the night. Jesus told him, “…no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again,” which made Nicodemus question, “How can this be?” (John 3:3, 9). Jesus answered, “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?… 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” (John 3:10, 14-15). Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel; he knew well the story of Moses lifting up the snake in the wilderness.
We find the account of this event in Numbers 21, where the Israelites were on their journey from Egypt to Canaan. At this particular point they were disgruntled, at a stage of rebellion, complaining about God, Moses, the journey, the desert, the lack of water and the miserable food. Because of this, God sent venomous snakes among them that bit the people and many Israelites died. Then, the Israelites cried out to Moses, saying, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” Moses prayed for the people and God said: “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (Numbers 21:7-8). For those bitten by a snake, all they had to do was look at the bronze snake on the pole, believe and they would live.
Nicodemus, however, knew there were a lot of people who were extremely cynical about that, people who refused to look at the snake and believe. Yet, what Jesus was telling Nicodemus was that there was a twist in this story, a whole new application of this story. Jesus was referring to the cross, foreshadowing to Nicodemus that there would come a day when He would be lifted up—as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert—and those who would look on Him and believe would have eternal life.
Christ was to be made sin for us on the cross, that we might look to Him and our sin be forgiven. As the beautiful hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” goes,
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
May we look to Christ and believe in Him and His finished work on the cross.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I look to You and I believe in You. Thank You for becoming sin for me on the cross so that I can be free from sin and have eternal life. Praise You!