The Two Lifting Ups Of Jesus

Photo by Donald Tong:

John 3:10-15 Jesus answered and said unto {Nicodemus}, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Last week we saw Nicodemus – a Rabbi of the Pharisees – come to speak to Jesus at night. Jesus told Nicodemus,


Everyone that hears my voice has been born one time – born of the flesh. But to be right with God, you must be BORN AGAIN, that is, born a second time. As Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about being born again, He says:

John 3:11 … We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

Our Salvation Is Secured By God’s Partnership

When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he said “WE know you are a Teacher from God because of the miracles you have done!” (vs 2). The “WE” Nicodemus spoke of was himself and the Pharisees. But Jesus responded with His own “WE”. Jesus was referring to Himself and the Holy Spirit of God. Though Jesus Christ is fully God …

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV) For by {Jesus} all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

1 Corinthians 8:6 (ESV) … for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Though fully God and fully human, Jesus did all that He did on this earth in His first coming through the Spirit of God. When John the Baptist spoke of Jesus coming, he said:

Matthew 3:11 {Jesus} shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire …

The Apostle said of Jesus:

Acts 10:37-38 (ESV) you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Salvation is something that comes upon us when God the Holy Spirit moves in our lives, opening our eyes to the Gospel of salvation, a Gospel fund only in Christ. When Jesus spoke of the need to be “born again” this is a plan that came from the Throneroom of God. Both Jesus and the Spirit – with the Father – planned our salvation. This is not a figment of Jesus’ imagination, but the plan of God. Before the earth was ever made, the Father loved the Son (John 17:24). Salvation only comes to those who are “in Christ”

Ephesians 1:4 … the {Father} has chosen us in {Christ} BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD

Jesus was FOREORDAINED BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD (1 Peter 1:20) to be the means of salvation. Believing on Him, the Spirit moves on us to make us “born again”. Jesus alone of all of humanity has ascended into Heaven, and has face to face confirmation of our salvation through Him. Jesus said:

John 3:12-13 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Only one Person has ascended to Heaven and returned to tell us about it, and this is Jesus Christ. Later on in the Scripture God will allow the Apostle John to look into Heaven and tell us what he sees. But of all the Rabbis – Moses included – only One has gone to Heaven, and returned to tell us what God has said. This is Jesus.

Enoch was translated that he not see death (Hebrews 11:5). Elijah went up to Heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). But only Jesus as God has Heaven as His home. He was INCARNATE – God made perfect Man – so that He could bring us to God. Of all the other Bible Teachers who have ever been, Only Jesus has sat at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus is uniquely suited to tell us of Heaven and how to get there.

The “Son Of Man” Must Be “Lifted Up”
Like The Serpent

Since only faith in Jesus is God’s method by which we may be saved, then you would expect there to be some Old Testament allusions to the Cross of Calvary. At this point Jesus tells Nicodemus:

John 3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Jesus Christ came from Heaven, and would one day return to Heaven. But He would also be lifted up in another way found in the Old Testament. Some have taken this lifted up out of context and thought that this means “Jesus must be EXALTED”. But this lifted up is tied to an event in Jewish history. Turn with me to Numbers chapter 21:

Numbers 21:1-3 And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners. 2 And Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities. 3 And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and He {the Lord} called the name of the place Hormah.

A new generation of Israel moves toward Canaan, king Arad of the Canaanites comes against Israel and defeats them. Israel does what she should do – Israel prayed and sought God’s Will.

Israel “lifted up” their voices to God in prayer, and God “lifted up” His people in power.

Word Study: Israel prayed and promised God that – if He gave the enemy into their hands – that they would totally destroy the pagan cities. The cities were “devoted” to destruction. God heard Israel’s prayer, and empowered them to do as they asked. The cities of King Arad were utterly destroyed. We are told that He {the Lord} called the name of the place Hormah. The Name Hormah” (Hebrew ḥārmâ) literally means Devotion.

Someone asked Pastor John MacArthur, “If God is a God of love and mercy and compassion, and He knows people are going to go to hell, why does He continue to create them?” He replied, “This is the ultimate agnostic/ atheistic problem. We say God is all powerful, and all loving. If He’s all powerful why doesn’t He save everybody? And if He’s all loving, why would He send anyone to hell? The answer to that is simply this.

God is Who He is. And you can’t invent Him and you can’t change Him and you can’t alter Him. You can either believe in Him or not believe in Him.

You can’t accommodate Him to your own thinking. And that means if you don’t understand His perfect righteousness and perfect holiness, the problem’s with you and not with Him. I don’t expect to fully understand God because I have a jaded view point because of my own fallenness and my own sinfulness.”

When Israel destroyed the cities of King Arad, God named those desolate places filled with death “Devotion”. God was satisfied with what occurred. He was satisfied because His people called on Him and obeyed His Word. He was satisfied because evil – horrible evil – was eradicated from the earth. He and His people were in one accord. C.H. Spurgeon said:

{Israel} did not depend upon their own prowess in war. God had enabled them to rout the Amalekites, and to defeat many other adversaries; but when this new foe appeared, they did not rely upon their own swords, or spears, or bows, but they went at once to the Lord, and spread their case before him. In humble, earnest prayer, they sought his aid.”

Then Israel went against God. The going got tough and, instead of calling on God, they spoke against God!

Numbers 21:4-5 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. 5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

God knows we get discouraged. But in our discouragement we must never speak against God. The Bible says the people spake against God, and against Moses. What was the nature of their blasphemy? They first of all accused God of hating them. Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? They said that God saved them to kill them – a horrible untruth. Then they declared God would not give them the least of necessities. They said they had no BREADnor WATER. This was a lie. They came by the WAY OF THE RED SEA where there was plenty of drinkable water. As they were nomadic, they could raise no wheat, so they had no regular bread. They did, however, have what they called LIGHT BREAD, which was Manna from Heaven. David wrote:

Psalm 78:23-24 {God} commanded the clouds above, And opened the doors of heaven, 24 Had rained down manna on them to eat, And given them of the bread of heaven.

What a wonderful blessing this was. But instead of being grateful,

Israel “lifted up” themselves instead of God!

God’s response was immediate.

Numbers 21:6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

Israel despised the BREAD from Heaven.
God gave them SERPENTS from earth.
Israel despised God’sGOODNESS.
God gave them burning poison.
Israel despised the life God gave them.
God gave them death.

We are reminded of the Scriptures The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) andIt is a FEARFUL THING to fall into the hands of the Living God” (Hebrews 10:31). You never want to be on the wrong side of the Almighty! Suffering, the people do NOT go to God …..

Numbers 21:7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

Their mind was in the wrong place. No MAN can forgive sins against God. Only God can forgive sins. Had Israel went DIRECTLY to God, I suspect that He would have taken the serpents away immediately. However since they went to a mere man (though Moses was a good man), God uses this as a teachable moment. Moses prayed for the people – but God did not remove the death from Israel. Instead, God told Moses:

Numbers 21:8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

Moses was NOT told to put a dead snake on a pole, but a bronze serpent, one that looked like a serpent. In order to pass from death to life, Israel would have to LOOK UP at the bronze serpent. Why not a LIVE or NEWLY DEAD serpent?

The serpent symbolized the sin of the people. A REAL serpent put on the pole would imply the people could pay for their sin. They cannot. A BRONZE Serpent implies that a Savior must be made, a Savior must be given. This is Jesus.

Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly stated that He must be LIFTED UP.

John 8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

John 12:32, 34 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 34 The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

Our Lord Jesus is the Bronze Serpent, affixed to the pole of crucifixion. God incarnate for us, Jesus Christ became Perfect Man to make payment for our sins. The Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 5:21 For {God} has made {Jesus} to be SIN FOR US, WHO KNEW NO SIN; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

When Jesus died on the Cross, He was not a sinner dying for sinners. Jesus was a bronze serpent. He was MADE TO BE SIN FOR US. He died in your place. He died in my place. When we look on Him believing, just as Israel looked on the bronze serpent believing, death ceases to be. We live, because He paid the penalty.

We Do Not Lift Up The Cross – But The Son Of God!

After Israel was healed by looking at the bronze serpent, they kept it and years later began to worship it (2 Kings 18:4). People today worship the empty Cross, genuflecting and bowing to it. It is not the Cross that paid the penalty for our sin. It is JESUS and JESUS ALONE Who did this. We are not to worship the Cross, but to remember that the Cross is empty and the Tomb is empty. Jesus Christ alone paid the penalty for our sin!

After speaking of being “lifted up”, Jesus gives us the Gospel in a short summation:

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

When we look to Jesus in faith, we do not see Him as a man like us who died unjustly on a Cross. Instead, we see God become Man, Perfect Man, to die in our place. He died for my sin, in my place. I believe on Him, receiving Him as both Lord and Savior.

In order for Israel to be saved, they had to REPENT and LOOK UPWARD to the bronze serpent. In order for a person to be saved, we must REPENT and LOOK UPWARD at Jesus, made of God for us. We must believe that – looking upon Him – we have everlasting life.

John 3:18-20 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

Just as Israel had to repent of blasphemy, the Christian repents of our old way of life. We walk away from evil, and walk with God our Savior daily. Some refuse to be saved, because they wish to cling to their old way of life. This will not work Those whom God saves, He changes. God promises,

Isaiah 45:22 (NKJV) Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I [am] God, and [there is] no other.

Repentance is the necessary first step in salvation. We turn away from our sins, and turn toward Christ, receiving Him and Him alone as sin’s solution. Oh that all who read this would give themselves to Christ. Do not be confused. If you are not in Christ, that is, if you have not received Him as Lord and Savior, you are “condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”. There is n purgatory. There are no other ways to God. Turn to Him this very day and live! May God the Holy Spirit move in your life today. Amen and Amen!

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A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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