In the beginning, before the creation, God exists in three persons, the Trinity. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the sixth day of creation, the Trinity spoke and said, “Let Us make man in Our image.”
The Creator places a man and woman in the Garden of Eden. Everything is perfect. The creation is a harmonious reflection of the beautiful unity of the Trinity. Stars, planets, forces of energy, animals, water, land, and man exist in unity with one another and with God, the Creator.
One day, Satan, the craftiest of all creatures, the master of deception, enters the garden. The serpent is God’s enemy who casts doubt and contradicts God’s Word. He promotes false worship. Adam and Eve fall prey to Satan’s deception, and they fulfill their fleshly desires and sin against God.
The disobedience of Adam and Eve and the deception of Satan demonstrate that they do not worship God as they should. God requires that we trust and believe His word because He is good. God demands our worship and love because He has our best interests in mind.
When we don’t love and trust God, we forfeit what is best for us. We are no longer in unity with God when we do not see Him as a valuable treasure worthy of our faith and worship. The unity of God and man disintegrates. Without faith in God, man is an enemy of God.
But, God is good, loving and full of grace and mercy. At the same time, God casts judgment upon Satan and man; God promises to send a Savior to restore our unity with God. The Savior will deliver a fatal wound to the head of Satan and will reconcile the relationship between God and man.
The fall of man did not take God by surprise. God predestines the event so He may demonstrate the glory of His grace. It is God’s will from the beginning to restore our unity with Him, even though it is undeserved. We can do nothing to earn restoration of unity with God. Unity with God is a gift of His love.
The book of Hebrews begins with the declaration that God spoke long ago to through His prophets in many portions and many ways. But, in these last days, God has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).
John’s gospel begins with telling us about Jesus by saying He is the Word.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1-3)
Jesus is the logos, the Word. We are to understand Jesus as being exactly as John 1:1 says, He is speech.
He is the verbal eloquence, truth, and the fountain of all wisdom. As we examine the life and words of Jesus, we know that He is the expressed will of God. Jesus declares God’s will verbally and speaks it with His life of holiness and perfection.
The expression of God’s will becomes flesh and dwells among people. Those that see and hear the Word glimpse God’s glory and come to know that God is full of grace and truth.
The fullness of truth reveals that God is good. The lies and deceptions told in the Garden are exposed by the light of Jesus’ life. The truth and grace of Jesus shines upon the world captured by the prince of darkness.
God is communicating to us, and Jesus is the communication. Jesus is God’s perfect way of making Himself knowable to us. Jesus is the ideal message spoken at the perfect time.
Creation communicates some of God’s divine attributes. (Psalm 19 - If the heavens pour forth speech, as described in Psalm 19, imagine the speech Jesus in creation brings forth.) But if we want to know God intimately, and what is most personal and profound, we look to Jesus. There is no better way to know, understand, appreciate, or comprehend God outside of looking at Jesus.
If Jesus is the Word, we need to ask ourselves, what is the message God is communicating to us through Jesus?
As the writer of Hebrews says, God spoke in times past through His prophets. Moses is one of the prophets of old.
God rescues the Israelites from Egypt and promises that He will bring them to the Promised Land. God has a perfect way and time, but the Israelites are not satisfied. They are not satisfied with God’s plan. Instead, they are tired of being in the wilderness and have grown weary of eating manna. The days of being thankful to God for saving them from slavery in Egypt are long gone. (Doesn’t that happen to us sometimes? Be careful of lacking contentment with God’s perfect plan for your life.)
Please turn to Numbers 21:4-9.
Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. Numbers 21:4-9
The people become impatient. They speak against God and Moses, saying that the reason God brought them out of Egypt was so that they would die in the wilderness. They no longer love and worship God. He becomes an object of scorn. They do not believe God will do what He promises but believe God leads them to a miserable death.
God rightfully punishes the people. They falsely accuse God of being evil. So, God sends fiery poisonous serpents that bite them, and many of them die.
The punishment from God brings the people to repent. The Israelites know they are wrong. They ask Moses to intercede on their behalf. Moses does, and God instructs Moses to fasten a replica of the serpent and put it on a standard, which is like a flag pole. God says if people look at the serpent on the standard, they will live.
God does not send an antidote for the poison or make the Israelites immune. God does not remove the serpents. God does not give them a special zap gun to kill the serpents. God does not stop the serpents from biting and drawing blood.
Notice that the Israelites do not make a sacrifice, burn incense, or pay money to the tabernacle. God does not tell them to do any good deeds or say a special prayer. They come empty-handed to God and He provides the gift of salvation.
God’s solution is to have Moses put a picture of their punishment upon a stick. Moses lifts the picture, and God requires everyone do look at the serpent. Imagine looking at the bronze serpent after being bitten. There it is, the punishment for my sin, lifted on a pole. I deserve the poison of the serpent because I did not believe in God or trust that He is looking out for my good. Thankfully, God is forgiving me and saving me from death.
God saves the Israelites from death, a death they deserve because of their sin. God provides the way of salvation by having them look upon the punishment they deserve. The people must have faith that God provides the way to be saved. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. The only way to be saved from death is to believe that God gives them the gift of salvation when they look upon the serpent.
Moses communicates God’s will. Their faith saves them from death.
(Turn to John 3, Scripture reading)
Most of us are familiar with the conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus in John chapter three. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, and a ruler of the Israelites. He comes to Jesus at night and proclaims that He believes Jesus is from God.
During their time together, Jesus shares with Nicodemus how to receive the gift of eternal life. Jesus then tells Nicodemus a remarkable truth about Himself.
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:14-17)
In the same way that the Israelites look to the serpent on the standard in the wilderness, and receive physical life, those who look upon Jesus, the Son of Man, will receive eternal life.
The way of salvation is the same; it is through faith. The Israelites believe God and look to the serpent. We need to believe God and look to Jesus.
But, there is a big difference between the serpent lifted-up and Jesus. Jesus explains the difference to Nicodemus.
First, the life Jesus offers is eternal life. God saves the Israelites from immediate physical death. The life Jesus offers is life everlasting. Jesus gives eternal spiritual life.
Second, the offer of eternal life is not just for the Israelites. In the wilderness, it is only the Israelites who could look upon the salvation offered by God in the wilderness. God loved the Israelites by offering forgiveness of sin and escape from the serpent’s deadly poison.
With Jesus, God offers salvation from sin to people of every nation. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “God so loved the world.” Every person of every tribe and tongue can look to Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and receive eternal life.
Third, the most crucial difference in looking to Jesus is that Jesus is not like the serpent. God sends the serpent to condemn sinners. Jesus is unlike the serpent in two ways. Jesus is not a creature; He is the beloved Son of God, a person of the Trinity. And, God does not send Jesus to condemn sinners, but that He offers salvation to all who put their faith in Him.
What Jesus does not tell Nicodemus is how He is lifted up We don’t know how Jesus is lifted up until later in John’s gospel.
After the Triumphal entry, Jesus tells people how He is lifted up, and John provides the explanation.
Turn to John, chapter twelve.
“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. (John 12:31-33)
Jesus reveals two things.
First, the ruler of this world will be cast out. John’s first epistle says Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). The work of the devil is to draw people away from God. The devil casts doubt upon the goodness of God. He twists the Word of God with lies to blind people to God’s love. The devil’s goal is to stop people from worshipping God and seeing God as a treasure. Jesus destroys the works of the devil and casts him out.
Second, Jesus draws all people to Himself. He does the opposite of Satan’s work. Jesus proves the value of God. He shows God to be worthy of our worship. Jesus proves God can be trusted. Jesus glorifies God with His death. To glorify God is to establish His value. We can put our faith in God because God is good.
John tells us how Jesus draws all people to Himself. The way Jesus is lifted up from the earth is to be nailed on a cross and placed in the busy crossroads outside the gates of Jerusalem. All people can look to the cross and see God’s just punishment for sin. God wants us to look at the punishment we deserve.
God also wants us to look at the cross and have faith in Jesus as being our salvation. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. The only way for people to be saved from eternal death and to receive eternal life is to believe that God gives them the gift of salvation when they look upon the cross.
All who look upon Jesus and believe God sent His beloved Son will not perish but will have eternal life.
God does not send an antidote. God does not remove physical death. God does not give us a special zap gun to kill sin. God does not keep sin from biting us and drawing blood. We cannot bring a sacrifice, burn incense, or pay money to the church. God does not tell us that if we do good deeds, our sin is taken away. God does not tell us to say special prayers. We do not bring anything to God. We come empty-handed and God provides the gift of salvation.
The Gospel of Jesus condemns everything of human accomplishment and points to Jesus as the only way to receive forgiveness of sin and everlasting life. The Gospel demands we see Jesus as the punishment we deserve and that we put our faith in His salvation.
Jesus says He will draw all men to Himself. How? Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us how.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:8-10)
God is worthy of our faith and trust. He does so by demonstrating His love in a profound way. We do not deserve our salvation. We are sinners. Yet, even though we are sinners, Jesus dies for our sins.
God: You can trust me with your life.
Us: How may we know?
God: Look at how I have loved you. You did not deserve salvation. But, I sent my Beloved Son to die for you. There is no greater demonstrate of love. You can trust me with your life because I gave you My Son’s life.
Jesus is the Word of God, and the communication God is giving us is a communication of LOVE. God is love. God draws us to Himself by loving us. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is the love of God that draws us to Him, so we worship Him. Jesus is our treasure. He is more valuable than anything this world has to offer. He is more valuable than the fruit, which comes from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The death of Jesus saves us. His death saves us because we are reconciled to God. Reconciliation brings us in unity with God. No longer are we enemies, being in disunity, but we are God’s children. We are at peace with God.
Paul continues by telling us that when Jesus rises from the dead, we are saved by His life. Our salvation with God is far greater than the forgiveness of sins. God places us in union with Christ (our topic for next week). In short, we are joint-heirs with Christ. We have everything in common with Jesus. We are justified, which means it is just as if we never sinned. We are justified, which means it is just as if we always obeyed. We are in complete unity.
Do we believe our sin is worthy of punishment? If so, look upon the cross and see what we deserve. God speaks to our soul through the cross of Jesus.
The Word upon the cross says to our soul that God is good. He took our punishment. There is no greater love.
History is the unfolding of God, vindicating that He is worthy of complete trust and adoration. Before the foundation of the world, God predetermines that He will demonstrate His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
God speaks His will through the Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the communication of salvation to us.
God’s predetermined plan is to place before us His beloved Son, a treasure beyond all measure, worthy of our complete trust and worship. When we see Jesus, our hearts sing for joy. Jesus satisfies all our longings.