Lifting up the Son of Man

April 4, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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Despite Nicodemus’s failure to grasp the concept of the water-spirit birth, Jesus, in His patience, gave him insight into another well-known Old Testament passage of Scripture: the account of the fiery serpents in Numbers 21.

God had sent a plague of venomous and deadly serpents to bite His people in the wilderness. This was because they had been rebelling against Him and complaining about the manna He had provided for them to eat and about the length of time they had been in the wilderness. Every serpent bite was a death sentence, but God, in His mercy, also provided a cure. He had Moses make a snake, of all things, out of brass. Just as the death rate for those bitten was 100%, so the cure rate for those who would raise their eyes in faith and behold the brass serpent was 100%. Many looked and lived, but many also stubbornly refused to look and died.

The brass serpent had been lifted up, just as Jesus would be “lifted up,” an ambiguous term, which at various times could mean physically held aloft, honored, exalted, or even (as in the case of Naboth, who was “set on high”) condemned by the people.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

John 3:14

Nicodemus no doubt knew something of the significance of the title “Son of Man” from the Book of Daniel. It was the title of the then-future heir of David’s throne, the Messiah, so he may have understood Jesus to be saying that the Son of Man would be “lifted up” in the sense of being exalted. However, Jesus was actually revealing a greater truth: that He would be lifted up as the Sin-Bearer, the way the brass serpent in the wilderness was lifted up, to be a symbol of death, but also to be looked to for salvation – the ONLY means of salvation.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

Just as those snake-bitten Israelites were already as good as dead – whether they took any further action or not – so those who do believe on Jesus are the ONLY ones who escape that condemnation.


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