Everyone focuses on that famous verse 16, but in His discourse, just two verses earlier, Jesus mentions our subject today and clearly equates it to himself;
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
Jesus was referring to an interesting time in Israel’s history where the people had left Egypt but had been stopped from entering the Promised Land because of their constant bickering. How ungrateful! God had miraculously provided food on a constant basis but they were still unhappy. Here is the account:
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:4-9)
This whole account clearly points towards Jesus in a number of ways. Let’s consider this further;
- The bronze serpent was God’s plan for salvation. He gave them a way to live despite their rebellion. This foreshadowed God’s ultimate plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.
- We looked at a great word the other week – propitiation (http://adrianpursglove.com/shadows-of-jesus-sin-offering/) which basically means the diverting of God’s wrath. The bronze serpent represented the diverting of God’s wrath. Jesus took our sin upon himself on the cross and successfully diverted the wrath that was heading towards us.
- Whoever looked at the serpent was healed, whoever looks to Jesus and believes is saved.
- The bronze serpent served as a reminder to the people of the serpent in the garden of Eden. A curse was proclaimed against the serpent. Jesus bore our sin and became a curse for us.
- The bronze serpent was lifted up so that the people could look to it and live. Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that anyone who looks to him and believes will live forever.
Salvation is simple, it’s not a magic formula. We look to Jesus, trust and believe in Him and we are saved
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
There’s one more lesson I want to bring out of this passage, which is an important warning to us all. The Israelites turned a good thing into an idolatrous thing. In 2 Kings 18:4 we read of how they actually started to worship the bronze serpent itself. We live in a day where too much attention is placed on religious objects and paraphernalia rather than on Jesus himself. This can be very easy to do, but we need to trust in Jesus alone. Have your eyes become fixed on something else? Let me encourage you to look to him
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)