Written Word

Why Must the Son of Man “Be Lifted Up”?

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)

The Old Testament Event

Moses had led Israel from bondage in Egypt and was now leading them towards the Promised Land. It was a difficult journey. “The people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” (Numbers 21:4-9)

This event speaks of a remedy for sin being provided through God’s grace. All who looked to God’s remedy in faith were healed. Jesus referred to this event when teaching about his atoning death.

The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up

We have all sinned. Satan, often referred to as a serpent, has bitten every one of us and has infected us with a deadly poison – sin. We, in ourselves, have no antidote. The consequence of sin is death.

Jesus is the remedy. Just as God provided Israel a healing remedy, God has provided us with a remedy for sin’s poison: he has given us his Son. Forgiveness of our sins is realised through Jesus who “must be lifted up”, a reference to the sacrificial death on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every sin we have committed is fully pardoned through the atoning death of Christ on the cross. He alone has the power to save us.

We look to Jesus. The Israelites looked to the bronze serpent God instructed Moses to make, and they were healed. We must look to Jesus for our spiritual healing. We cannot heal ourselves. Our response is one of trust, belief and faith in what he did on our behalf. We must trust the divine remedy if we are to be made right with God.

It is not what we do that saves us, but what Jesus has done for us. Through faith we accept from Jesus the forgiveness of sin through his death. In our baptism we are being identified with him through faith in his death, burial and resurrection. “Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through … faith in the power of God, who has raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)