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Jesus Lifted Up

by | May 22, 2024 | Uncategorized

“No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 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. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

(John 3:13-17 ESV)

I am not super fond of snakes. And it sounds really strange for Jesus to suddenly bring them up in the middle of a deep conversation about God! What is He talking about?

If you read the Old Testament stories about how God set His people free from Egypt, you’ll see that the Israelites had a pattern. While they were traveling through the wilderness to the new land God had promised to give them, they would get cranky and start whining. It happened again and again. And God would have to discipline them.

This time it was with snakes. God sent snakes among them, and people got bit, and really quickly they cleaned up their attitude. And since God hates having to hurt people, He told Moses how to help. He said, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8b). So Moses made a metal snake and stuck it way high up where the whole camp could see it; and if anyone got bit from then on, he could just look at the fake snake and he would get better.

So far it’s just a weird little story. But when Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus and talk about God, Jesus brings up this story and says that it’s really talking about Him! That long-ago story was a foreshadowing of what Jesus would do to save us from sin, death, and evil. He would lay down His life on the cross; and everyone who looks to Jesus in faith would be saved and have everlasting life.

But snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?

It was a fake metal snake that God used to heal the bites of the real ones. And it is Jesus, who took our sins on Himself—no, more than that, who became sin for us!—who destroys the power of evil to kill us. As Paul writes, “For our sake He [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21b ESV).

The fake snake brought healing from the bites of the real ones. The holy God who carried our sins on Himself to the cross—He gives us healing and life forever, freely, because He loves us. No one has to work for this or pay in any way. All we need to do is look to Him, trusting Him to help us—and He will. And then we will live forever with Him, just as He has risen from the dead and will never die again.

We Pray: Lord, thank You for taking on my sins and giving me Your life. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on May 23, 2024
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights

Reflection Questions:
1. How do you feel about snakes in general? Why?
2. Whose fault would it be if someone didn’t look at the metal snake and then died of snakebite?
3. Are there other objects or stories in the Old Testament that remind you of Jesus?