As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
    Even so must the Son of man be lifted up;

That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but
    have eternal, have eternal life;

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.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Amen.

  – John 3:15,16


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Here is a 4-voice Canon, taking Jesus’ famous words to Nicodemus recorded in John chapter 3.

The first verse refers to the story of the “fiery serpents” that afflicted the children of Israel in the wilderness, after they had murmured about the hardness of the wilderness way, and the constant diet of manna (Numbers 21:4-9).

Moses was directed to make a fiery serpent, put it on a pole, and everyone who looked upon this would be healed. Jesus brings in this story as a picture foretelling His death on the cross, and how all who looked “in faith” to the provision God had given, would be healed from the disease of sin.

He then reinforces the lesson by repeating part of it, and crediting the love of God for the world, as the Source of this divine plan. His Father was the source of this gift of love. And so, not only does the gospel plan provide a way to heal man, it is a revelation of God’s character, removing the dark shadows that have enshrouded men through their misunderstanding of His actions in the Old Testament.

JewelsThis brief talk with one of the religious rulers of the Jewish nation was so filled with some of the most profound truths, that it is like a casket of sparkling gems.

This shows the eagerness with which Jesus longed to reach the spiritual leaders, but very few would identify with Him, and even Nicodemus, who was genuinely interested in His teachings, only dared to visit Jesus in the evening, when few would notice.

Some of the reasons as to why Jesus was not popular can be gathered from the story of the “fiery serpents” which Jesus used as a parallel to His work:

  1. Looking at the serpent on the stick required acknowledging personal responsibility for the sin which brought the affliction. This is not natural to man. When sin first entered the world, it was immediately followed with excuses and denials. Likewise, Israel in Jesus’ time did not want to acknowledge their poor spiritual condition. Instead, they looked to the temple, their religious celebrations, and their history to convince themselves that they were actually doing quite well. It is the same today, almost no church will take responsibility for the sad moral condition of our nation. Instead, they will blame Atheism. Or on the issue of global warming, see how many deny it, or live as if it didn’t exist. Even if they acknowledge that the planet is warming, they deny that we are the cause. Or look at the problem with terrorism…there is no acknowledgment that we may have caused this reaction by our own actions; instead, “God Bless America!” is posted on billboards. But accepting Christ, like looking to the serpent, required naked honesty.
  2. It was a serpent on the stick! Who wants to look at that? How can that do anything? Wasn’t that the thing that afflicted us? So Jesus was to be set forth as the Sin-Bearer. We esteemed Him “smitten of God, and afflicted.” How could this poor carpenter, from a questionable birth, who did not court popularity, possibly save Israel? It was humiliating. Jesus was not like the hero’s of the movies; instead He was taken, falsely charged, beaten, and crucified. He didn’t “blast away” the bad guys. The story wasn’t supposed to end like it did! Like Namaan, when he was told to bathe in the Jordan to heal his leprosy, we want to find a better river. Accepting Christ, like looking to the serpent, was humiliating.

But these things: humiliation and honesty, are the two things that man really needs. So God offers the healing balm, but because of these obstacles, few will come to accept the message. But those who do, find healing and life: “and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9).

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