July 21 I Sunday
“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 3:14-15
The Pharisees knew Old Testament history like the back of their hands. Their world was entrenched in the Books of Moses and the Law of Moses. With strict adherence to the Law, they lived every day by rules externally imposed, rather than a disposition of heart that sought a relationship with God. When Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,” Jesus was stepping into the Pharisee’s world, and Nicodemus would have known the exact event Jesus was talking about.
The Israelites had trusted God walking out of Egyptian bondage into freedom, but as soon as things got tough, they groaned and complained, preferring a life of slavery to one with God, who had proven totally sufficient. When they came to an area infested with venomous snakes, many that were bitten had died. The people cried out to God, confessing their sin, and pleading to be free from these poisonous snakes. God told Moses to build a bronze serpent, put it on a pole and place it at the center of the camp. The people were told that whoever was bitten by the snakes only needed to look at the bronze serpent and they would live. Some may have thought it nonsense to look at the serpent and probably
dropped where they were, waiting to die, but those who believed and looked upon the serpent had lived.
The serpent on the pole had the appearance of the very thing that was destroying the Israelites. When Jesus hung on the cross, it was not in a manner opposite of us—completely righteous and without sin—but it was Jesus Christ becoming exactly as we are dying in our place as our substitute. Paul tells us, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Scripture does not tell us whether Nicodemus ever converted to Christianity, but it does tell us that he was one of two Pharisees who voted against the crucifixion of Jesus. He was also one of the four who attended the funeral of Jesus and helped prepare His body for burial. He would have seen Jesus lifted up on that cross and probably recall the conversation they had, “as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” (John 3:14). Perhaps Nicodemus understood at this point. If so, not only would he have looked upon the cross of Christ and believed, but he would have received eternal life and found the missing ingredient—a living and active relationship with God, where this invitation is opened to everyone.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I am so undeserving, but thank You for taking my sin upon Your shoulders and dying in my stead. You are the greatest gift to me. Thank You, Lord.