John 3:14-21 (Pew Bible 752)
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. “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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”"
The Israelites were still in the wilderness. As they have done before, they lost their focus and began to complain against God and against Moses. They thought once again they were going to die in the desert of hunger and thirst. When the snakes came and bit the people, many died. They repented, so Moses prayed for the people. God told Moses to make a snake and put it on a pole. Those who are bitten can look at it and live.
This supernatural medicine had profound impact on the people. Not only were the people healed of their snake bites, but the snake on the pole turned the people's focus from their fears and complaining... away from Moses and toward God, who provided deliverance.
For something to be delivered, it must be taken from its place of origin to its place of destination. Jesus here presents to us a profound and unfathomable message, yet it is so clear and simple. It is a message of deliverance. Jesus is sent by God, who infinitely loves us, as an invitation to relationship.
But the means of this relationship... the snake on a pole was an unlikely means of supernatural medicine. The very symbol of death for the people, became the means of healing and life!
Jesus clearly states in this passage that a most unlikely means of deliverance would bring us eternal life. The symbol of the most grusome death known at the time... a dead body on a cross of crucifixion... was the means of our healing and life.
Today, we adore little crosses around our necks. We put them on our buildings. They mark some of our belongings. We have lost our focus. We probably would be offended at someone wearing a noose for a necklace or having a tiny electric chair charm on a bracelet. Such was the offensiveness of the cross to the early church... yet it was the symbol of The Way, The Truth, and The Life for us all.
We consider the cross a beautiful thing. May we instead be struck by the supernatural medicine it represents. The very symbol of death has become the means of eternal life!