"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;John 3:14(NASB)
I wonder what thoughts thundered through the mind of Nicodemus as he helped to remove the bloodied body of His Saviour from Calvary's cruel Cross. No doubt his mind fled back to that dark night of confused questioning when the 'Light-of-the-world' began to pierce the deep darkness within his proud, unbelieving heart - and he heard those penetrating words for the very first time: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
Nicodemus knew the familiar story where a deadly bite from the fangs of fiery serpents was Israel's fatal punishment for their foolish rebellion and their grave sin against their long-suffering God. And Nicodemus knew that in His grace and justice, God answered Moses' intercession on behalf of his people, Israel, and instructed Moses to lift up a brass serpent on a pole in the wilderness as a substitute for their sin. And so it was that by grace through faith, all who looked on the brass serpent of judgement - lived.
It was not the killing of the fiery serpents that would save the souls of the stricken Israelites in the wilderness nor pretending that the snake-bite did not exist, but looking by grace through faith at the substitute that God had placed in the midst of their camp.
And it is not by self-effort, extensive training, mortification, or ignoring the presence of sin in our life that we can be forgiven of our sins and have our lives redeemed from death. It is only by looking at God's perfect Sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ, our sin-Substitute Who was lifted up on the Cross so that all who would look on Him by grace through faith would live.
As Nicodemus tenderly removed the body of the Lord-Jesus Christ, Who had been lifted up on the Cross like the fiery serpent in the wilderness, its profound significance and the intensity of its meaning must have pierced his soul to the very core.
For it was at the Cross where Your sins and mine were judged. It was on Calvary where the ruler of this world was finally cast out, and death itself was gloriously defeated. It was when Christ was lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness that judgement for all sin was fully and finally made.
Three long years had passed since that night when Nicodemus first started to understand that he must be born again, but as the day of Jesus' death grew ever closer, when He would finally be lifted up like that brass serpent in the wilderness, we read these poignant words from our Saviour own lips: "I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."
Let us exult His name together, and let us lift up the beautiful name of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world that has been bitten by sin so that they too may look and live, by grace through faith in Him.
Heavenly Father, thank You that Jesus is my substitute for sin, that He was lifted up on the Cross for my sake and took the punishment that I deserve. I pray that I may lift up the wonderful name of Jesus to all with whom I come in contact so that they may hear the good news of the glorious gospel of grace and look to Him for salvation and live. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.