Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 3 2013 - John 3:1-21 – Healing judgment

Nicodemus the Pharisee had come by night to talk with Jesus. He recognised that Jesus was a teacher sent from God and wanted to understand more of who Jesus was and to learn from his teaching. But at Jesus speaks to him about the need to be born again, born of the Spirit, Nicodemus is confused; he cannot understand what Jesus is saying. So, to help him, Jesus uses an illustration that Nicodemus would have been familiar with from the books of the Law; “‘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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:14-17)

How strange that Moses should have been told to construct a brass snake on a pole for the healing of those who were being bitten by snakes. The snakes, we are told in Numbers 21, were sent as a judgment by God upon a rebellious people. Yet whoever looked at the image of the snake, the object of judgment, would be healed from that judgment and would live.

Jesus speaks prophetically of his death as being like that snake on a pole. In his cross we see the judgment of God upon a rebellious people, he became the object of the judgment that was our due:

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
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.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)

And so we have this strange source of healing – through looking at a man who hangs upon a cross; “There is life for a look at the crucified one.”

The cross is a demonstration not only of God’s wrath but also of the depth and extent of his love; “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.” We are as incapable of fully understanding these things as was Nicodemus, but we believe them and lay hold of Christ by faith that we might live.

God did not send his Son into the world for the sake of a few. God loves the world, and sent his Son to be Saviour of the world. It is not enough for us to look to Christ and live. Like John the Baptiser of whom we were reading two days ago, we must point others to the Saviour that they also might look and live.

Father God, I thank you for your love shown towards us in the Lord Jesus. Help me to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that I might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Fill me with your love that I might share your passion to rescue a lost world. May your Spirit who has given me life help me to tell others of the life that is to be found in Jesus the Crucified Saviour.

Peter Misselbrook