Read John 3:1-21
A few weeks ago, we started a Bible study at Honey’s Place to provide a place for our friends living on the fringes of society to find some Spiritual nourishment. We meet outside to limit contact and concern about Covid-19. Our desire is for the Gospel to become more contagious than any virus ever could. As promised, the Holy Spirit is present, and the Word of God is alive and well, touching the hearts of those who attend.
I wanted to start a Bible study on the Gospel of John about two years ago. As I looked around at options, nothing seemed to make sense. Instead of a group study, I ended up blogging through the Gospel and John’s epistles in a rather long series of posts: John: Introduction. I’m thankful for the delayed start. I would never have thought we’d be reading through John’s Gospel on the sidewalk in metal chairs, but the wait was most definitely ordained.
The series of posts linked above provide some modest insight into John’s writing (other than Revelation). Still, I’ve learned something amazing this time around: sharing with a group is far better than sitting alone. As I prepare for the Bible study, I read through the relevant post and prepare some highlights for the small group that attends on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. On my way to meet with the dozen or so participants, I pray for specific insight for my friends and me.
Today’s post is one of many meaningful moments that happened as we were reading and studying the interaction with Jesus and Nicodemus. I’ll set the stage briefly, but I hope you will take time to read the first part of chapter 3 to get your thoughts aligned as we focus on these two verses:
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
If you’re a fan of the red-letter Bible as I am, you’ll notice that the red letters stop at the end of verse 15, just before the most famous verse in the Bible. The first 15 verses capture the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee that came to visit Jesus under the cover of darkness. I believe Nicodemus is genuinely interested in what Jesus has to say, but by verse 9, he is speechless. Jesus patiently teaches the “teacher of Israel.” in the following text. John gives us just a few highlights of the conversation, then summarizes the entire evening in John 3:16-21.
Our discussion a few mornings ago was riveting. We were all moved by the weight of the moment. The Spirit was tugging on our hearts. When we looked back to understand John 3:14-15, I made the statement that I didn’t know why God told Moses to create a bronze snake and raise it on a pole, but Jesus used this incredible event to teach Nicodemus — and us.
Take a moment to read the event: Numbers 21:4-9. The key verse is here:
…when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. Numbers 21:9b
As I read the verse above and confessed I didn’t understand the solution, the Spirit interceded, and this thought occurred to me. Imagine you were there, grumbling with the other Israelites under the leadership of Moses. You get bitten by a snake, and your leg begins to swell. You’ve watched hundreds of people die as a result of the same incident. Even though you were careful, you’ve become a victim. Then someone tells you there is a solution: look at the bronze snake, and you’ll be healed. It sounds ridiculous, but you know you’re about to die, so you listen to the advice and look at the snake, and without explanation, you are healed.
Can you imagine your joy at that moment? You went from death to life by merely looking at a snake! How would you respond to such an event? To begin with, I’d tell everyone I knew that there was a cure for an otherwise fatal bite. What would you do if you found someone who was bitten by a snake? I’m quite sure you would tell them to look at the snake and be healed. You would probably go out of your way to let people know there is a solution for an otherwise deadly event.
Jesus tells Nicodemus there is a solution for his otherwise deadly predicament, but this solution is far more than physical healing; this is about eternal salvation. Looking at the bronze snake provided temporary relief for the body, but those who believe in the Son of Man will find eternal peace.
There are two crucial requirements here: 1) we need to recognize that we have been bitten by a deadly disease called sin, and 2) the solution is right there in front of us, Jesus, hanging on a cross. If we understand the state we’re in, the only question that remains is this: do we believe that Jesus, the Son of Man, can heal our very soul?
that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. John 3:15
If the answers are yes and yes, John 3:16 summarizes the response we need to make.
But there is more. If we were back in the days of Moses, wouldn’t we tell anyone we met about the bronze snake? Of course, we would. However, we are well beyond that event and have full knowledge of Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection — we know the solution for eternal life with God. How can we not tell the world?
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
I’ve read about the bronze snake and even the interaction with Nicodemus many times, but I never really got the connection until a few weeks ago. I love how the Spirit works. May this revelation help fuel your desire to fulfill Jesus’ command to go and make disciples.