“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. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:14-16 (NIV)
Jesus explained the cross to a religious leader named Nicodemus in a way that he would understand, comparing it with an Old Testament story found in Numbers 21. It was a story Nicodemus no doubt had taught before. What he didn’t know was just how this story foreshadowed the power of the cross. Jesus said,
“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 (NIV)
What did He mean and how does a snake have anything to do with the cross? Here’s the story from Numbers 21:4-9,
“Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. ‘Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?’ they complained. ‘There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!’ So the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. Then the people came to Moses and cried out, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take away the snakes.’ So Moses prayed for the people. Then the LORD told him, ‘Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!’ So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!”
The long, hot trip in the desert was beginning to take its toll on the people of Israel. Complaining soon eclipsed the joy of being delivered from slavery in Egypt. They found themselves in the desert of delay, having to take the long route around Edom to get where they needed to go. Delay created doubts as they wondered if God really cared. Delays can do that in our lives as well. Like Israel, we forget that delays can never prevent God’s purpose. The problem with delay is that we begin to doubt God and complain, thinking we know better than God. When Israel began to complain, they spoke out against God and Moses. The Bible says that the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. When they cried out to Moses and confessed their sin, the Lord told Moses to make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. If anyone was bitten, they only needed to look at the bronze snake and they would be healed! I wonder how long it would take you to look up at that snake if you were bitten! Would you complain that there was not some other antidote?
Like those Israelites, we too, have been bitten by the poison of sin in our lives. Jesus told Nicodemus that there was only one remedy, only one antidote for the poison of sin that would bring healing! It was the cross! This is the power of the cross. In Galatians 3:13, the Bible says,
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.’”
Jesus became the curse for us that He may break the curse of sin in our lives. He did that on the cross! Isaiah adds this as well,
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
Like Nicodemus, we too, must look to the cross to be healed from the curse of sin. We look to everything and everyone else when we need only look to the cross. Are you still looking everywhere else but the cross? Look to the cross, and experience healing that only Christ can give!