“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.”
When the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, it was for those who had sinned grievously against the Lord. They expressed deep, continued distrust of Him, to a great enough extent that punishment came. They were dying as a consequence of their sin. Without a remedy, without hope. Until the serpent was lifted up out of the mercy of God.
This is our state. This is where we were when Jesus, the Son of Man, the Son of God, was lifted up on the cross. And until we look to Him for salvation, that is where we remain. Dying in our grievous, prideful, rebellious sin. But for all who look to Him in faith, we find that He is enough. Enough to do what we cannot – save us. He made the choice to be lifted up. To save us through those agonizing hours rather than save Himself. He could have called angels down at any moment, but each moment He instead chose suffering, anguish, scorn, and death as He was lifted up on a Roman cross, beaten, bleeding, and shamed, “in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17).
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:12,16). Astoundingly, the mercy and love of God go beyond salvation for us. Believing in Christ, we find belonging. “See, what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Children of God. Not by inherent right, but granted by love. Through the sacrifice of Christ. Brought near and brought into close relationship, the holy God of heaven taking His chosen place as Abba, Father to us. Pouring into us grace upon grace as we receive all we need, all our souls have been searching for, from His fullness.
This, for grievous sinners. This, for us as we were dying in our sin and the darkness of our hearts. This, from an active standpoint – our Savior is not passive in His salvation of us. Shortly before His death, Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). He draws us to Himself intentionally, actively seeking to bring us into relationship. So we can experience this depth of mercy. Abundant, overwhelming grace. Magnificent, steadfast love.
Jesus was lifted up that we, while vastly undeserving, can know eternal life. Eternal grace. Eternal light. Eternal freedom from sin. Eternal relationship with the One who makes us whole and who loves us so deeply He will go to such lengths for our sakes. Eternal safety, home, and belonging.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”