John 3:9 – 15

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.

 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In last week’s study (click here), we already saw how both Nicodemus and Jesus were surprised at what the other had to say.  Jesus said to him that a person had to be “born again” to be able to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, and Nicodemus asked how it was possible for a man to go back into his mother’s womb. 

Jesus was referring of course to the spiritual birth of a person, and He used an analogy of life to try to get Nicodemus to understand.  Except that he didn’t understand.  In our passage today then, we see that Nicodemus is again surprised at all of Jesus’ teachings, and Jesus in return is surprised that such an important Jewish religious leader could not understand these spiritual truths through these down to earth analogies.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Now Jesus is ready to speak directly about some important spiritual truths of Heaven without the use of earthly analogies.  To make it clear to Nicodemus that Jesus has the ability and the authority to teach spiritual truths, He offers His credentials to Nicodemus.  No human has ever been able to go up into heaven to know firsthand God’s divine truth, but Jesus makes the claim that He was already with God in heaven and descended, or came down, to earth to disclose these truths to mankind.

(Take note of how the pronouns go from singular to plural in verse 11, including the “you” which is a plural in Greek.  This is probably a comment of John himself many years after Jesus had now ascended back up into heaven.  John and the other disciples not only listened to these teachings of Jesus, but they witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus.  So this is a third party testimony to the truth of Jesus’ divine origin and authority.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Verses 14 and 15 now reveal the deep spiritual truth that Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand, and by writing this, John wants all of us to understand.  To be able to receive eternal life, a person must have faith in Jesus (who has given himself the title “the Son of Man”.)  To get the full impact of the teaching though, we must understand the historical event to which Jesus refers regarding Moses and the serpent in the wilderness.

This event is recorded for us in Numbers 21:4 – 9.  Let’s take a look at it together:

4 The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road that leads to the Gulf of Aqaba, in order to go around the territory of Edom. But on the way the people lost their patience 5 and spoke against God and Moses. They complained, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We can’t stand any more of this miserable food!”

 6 Then the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many Israelites were bitten and died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Now pray to the LORD to take these snakes away.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 Then the LORD told Moses to make a metal snake and put it on a pole, so that anyone who was bitten could look at it and be healed. 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Anyone who had been bitten would look at the bronze snake and be healed.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It is quite clear that the Israelites were sinning in their rebellion against God.  As a holy and just God, sin must be dealt with and the Bible tells us that the consequence of sin is death.  (Read Romans 6:23)  When the people repented of their sin and ask for deliverance from God, He does provide it.  But there are a couple of very important things to notice.

God does not remove the serpents (the consequence of their sin), but He does provide the solution for salvation.  When they were bitten (stung by their sin) they should have died.  But if they had faith in God and turned to look at the bronze serpent, then they would live.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This is the great truth that Jesus is making for all of us in this passage in John.  All of us are sinners and we deserve death.  Just as the raised bronze snake would save the Israelites, so too when Jesus would be lifted up (a metaphor for His crucifixion) anyone who has sinned but turns by faith to Jesus will also be saved from death.

But the death we will be saved from is not physical death (seeing as all people do die).  We will be saved from the penalty of spiritual death and will cross over to experience spiritual life with God forever.  Now that is a deep truth.  My hope is that you have accepted Jesus into your life and are already a part of God’s eternal family.