John 3:14-16 : “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Here, Jesus predicts His death on the cross. He also provides us with a story that explains the reason for His death. The story takes place after the the first Passover when God delivers Israel from slavery. As they are moving toward the promised land this happens:
Numbers 21:4-9 : They traveled from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. The people spoke against God, and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, and there is no water; and our soul loathes this light bread.” Yahweh sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many people of Israel died. The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against Yahweh, and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that he take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people. Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard: and it shall happen, that everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it on the standard: and it happened, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked to the serpent of brass, he lived.
Jesus said that He is like the serpent. This is a pretty bad thing to say. The serpent usually represents Satan:
Revelation 20:2 : …the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole inhabited earth…
Not only this, Jesus said that He would be “lifted up” on a pole. Now, this is a horrible thing to say also. Listen to what the Bible says about people that are lifted up on poles:
Deuteronomy 21:22-23a : If a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and you hang him on a tree; his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him the same day; for he who is hanged is accursed of God;
Jesus is saying that the people have, like Israel, sinned against God and God sent Him specifically to become like a serpent hanging on a pole, that whosoever believes, will be saved from the death that they deserve. You see, our sinning against God is worthy of death too, just as it was for Israel. Jesus was made into evil, like Satan, and hung on a pole. It satisfied God’s justice to see that our sin was paid for by this evil that was cursed.
Isaiah 53:10a : Yet it pleased Yahweh to bruise him. He has caused him to suffer.
Jesus is better than the serpent in the desert and our sin is worse than Israel because eternity is involved. Jesus is the everlasting God, and our sin is worthy of eternal punishment in Hell. If you look to Jesus to save you, you will not die eternally, but have eternal life. This is the glorious gift of life that has been offered to us by God. This is the Gift that changed everything for those of us who have believed.
Galatians 3:13,14 : Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
2 Corinthians 9:15 : Now thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!