14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
Verses 14 and 15 show the chronology of the Son of Man from the past to the future. Verse 13 pictures Jesus as the One who came down from heaven. Verse 14 portrays Him as the suffering and exalted Savior.
Having made the point that no one but Jesus ever came from eternity, the apostle continued this thought with the words “lifted up.” He was about to explain “heavenly things” of verse 12. Jesus decided to elucidate “heavenly things” even though Nicodemus struggled with “earthly things.” He now clarified why He came to earth. Verse 14 explains the purpose of the death of Christ.
14 And as Moses
Jesus here referred to an event that occurred in Numbers 21:4-9. Maybe Nicodemus would understand what Jesus said if He gave an illustration from the Old Testament. This event took place during Israel’s wandering in the wilderness before they entered the promised land. God sent poisonous snakes as discipline for their constant complaining about being in the wilderness. However, people could be healed from the snake bite if they looked to the standard of a bronze snake on a pole.
lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
God told Moses to lift up a bronze snake on a pole to save those who were dying. This was a divine provision, a sign or symbol of life for those dying by snake bite. By merely looking at the bronze snake, they would live physically. Looking was a type of belief. While looking to the bronze snake, the poisoned Israelites were cured. The bronze snake was the cure for every Israelite. There is a saving significance to God’s provision of both the pole and the cross.
This is the first of three “lifted up” phrases in John (Jn 8:28; 12:32, 34). These words expose the historical importance of the crucifixion.
Stung with sin that produced death, by death we are cured.
Both the bite of the snakes and bronze snake represented death. In the one case it was death by one’s sin, and the other was death by someone else. The instrument of cure represented death. Jesus’ death represents our cure. Stung by snakes, by a snake they were cured.
1 Co 15: 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.