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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Nicodemus – Part 3

     Nicodemus had witnessed Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. He saw Jesus heal the sick and comfort and feed the poor. Nicodemus knew that what Jesus was doing were some of what the prophets of old had prophesied. Only One with authority from heaven could cleanse the House of God and perform such miracles. Nicodemus also knew that throughout scripture, God’s people were taken captive by other nations when they went against God. God’s people were now under the rule of the Romans. All these things stirred Nicodemus’ heart to hear more from Jesus.
            Knowing Nicodemus’ dedicated life in service to God and his study of the scriptures, Jesus didn’t directly answer Nicodemus’ question about being born anew. Nicodemus is looking through “natural” eyes, but Jesus is teaching a “spiritual” truth. The “natural” person cannot understand the “spiritual” unless they are born of the Spirit. Instead of responding directly to Nicodemus’ question about being born anew, Jesus went right to the heart. The Jewish religious leaders believed that strict adherence to the Law would entitle them to a place in heaven. Jesus is upending this premise with His words. In the minds of humanity, Nicodemus who was an honored and renowned servant of God and His Law would certainly be welcomed into God’s spiritual kingdom, but Jesus is spiritual and is teaching spiritual truth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Jesus really isn’t saying anything new. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had prophesied that God said His people needed a new heart and a new Spirit and He would give both to them. (see Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 36:26-27)  
No human can earn a place in heaven. Like Nicodemus, next to Jesus all of humanity is unclean and unholy. Only a Holy One could atone for the sin of humanity by His grace. And only the Holy One can give the Holy Spirit of God. It is the pure blood of Jesus shed on the cross that atones for all sin. It is the resurrection power of Jesus that gives the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes in Him. Jesus is teaching this to Nicodemus. He wants Nicodemus to understand Jesus’ heart and mission. Jesus’ anointed Truth is beginning to penetrate Nicodemus’ mind. The seed of truth has been planted. God will help it grow. Unlike the other religious leaders, Nicodemus continued to watch and listen to Jesus’ words, actions and deeds. No doubt Nicodemus remembered the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel which kept him listening to Jesus.
Jesus gives Nicodemus another example in the Older Testament that Nicodemus would be familiar with – Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus will compare this event to Himself.

Moses and the Serpent on the Pole – John 3:14
Jesus said, “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.” John 3:14
            The whole Truth could not be known until Jesus because He is the whole of Truth. God revealed his plan of salvation and deliverance through His Son Jesus in types and shadows in the Older Testament. Moses and the serpent on the pole are a foreshadowing of what Jesus would do in the spiritual.

Numbers 21:4-9
       God’s people have been traveling through the desert. They became discouraged and impatient because it was taking so long to reach their destination – the Promised Land. The people began to murmur and complain against God’s provision of the manna and water and His chosen and anointed servant Moses. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this horrible food!” Numbers 21:5 Their ingratitude toward God and their attack upon God’s anointed one opened the door for the work of the devil. In the New Testament a similar thing happened. The Pharisees, Sadducees and members of the Sanhedrin Council also loathed Jesus, the Anointed Bread and the water sent from heaven to feed the spiritual hunger and thirst of God’s people. Jesus is the Manna of heaven and the Rock that sent the water of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees like the Jews in the wilderness spoke against God’s Anointed One – Jesus. There is a consequence in touching God’s anointed ones. God says in scripture, “Touch not My anointed ones and do My prophets no harm.” (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 104:15)
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes (a brood of vipers) among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. V6 God sent Divine judgment through the brood of vipers. When God’s people reject God’s provision and speak against His anointed ones, God acts. There was no way God’s wrath could be reversed except through confession, repentance, intercession, faith and obedience to God’s Word.  Jesus did all of this for us. His blood reversed the curse for sin. When we confess our sin and repent, Jesus forgives our sin. He is our Mediator and Intercessor before the Father.
The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. V6-7 The people confessed their sin against God and Moses. Then they asked Moses to be their mediator and intercessor before God. He did so because they had confessed and repented of their sin. (Moses is a type and shadow of Christ as the Servant-Ruler, Lawgiver, Mediator and Intercessor between God and His people)
God honored the intercession of His chosen, anointed servant Moses and told Moses what to do to deliver and heal His people. “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” Numbers 21:8-9 The Hebrew word for pole is nec meaning banner, standard or a sign. God is telling Moses to make an image of what is killing His people and lift it up on a pole for all to see. Moses had faith in God and obeyed His instruction. Why a bronze serpent? Bronze is the metal of sin and judgment. The serpent represents sin and the devil. This was a fiery serpent! The devil is going to end up in a lake of fire in the end. God was telling the Israelites to look at the source of their pain and sin, turn from it and they will be healed and live. In other words, “look, turn and live!” The poison of sin fueled by the serpent (devil) brings spiritual death, not spiritual life.  All of humanity are born with the serpentine nature (sin) because of the original sin in the Holy Garden of God in Genesis. We are all descended from Adam, so we all must look at the fact that we are all sinners. God wants us to look at our sin and its source, not ignore it.  Then turn from our sin and be spiritually alive.
            Those bitten by the snakes on the ground must “look up” for their deliverance and healing. This was a physical healing. The healing power wasn’t in the serpent; it was God working and showing His people the cause of their pain. Recognizing this, they were healed and turned their thoughts and lives back to God.

The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up
        Jesus is using the lifting up of the serpent on a pole to teach Nicodemus about His eternal salvation and deliverance which gives eternal spiritual life and healing. The Israelites were saved and received physical healing, restoration and life by looking up to the bronze serpent on a pole. In the New Testament Jesus was lifted up on the cross to save us from eternal spiritual death. Moses’ faith and obedience to God’s Word brought physical healing and deliverance to those who looked at the serpent on the pole. Jesus’ faith and obedience to God even unto death on the cross brought eternal spiritual deliverance, eternal spiritual healing and eternal spiritual life to all who believe in His finished work on the cross. Jesus also suffered and died to give us victory over the serpent and his poisonous bites (sin). The serpent had his head crushed by Jesus on the cross in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Unfortunately, the serpent is still active in the hearts and minds of humans through our fleshly nature until Jesus destroys the devil and his demonic host forever in the lake of fire in the belly of the earth. (see Revelation 20:10-15) Until then, Jesus has given us the power of the Holy Spirit and Truth to ward off the attacks of the enemy of the souls of humanity.
As you may recall, John the Baptist and Jesus called the Pharisees and other religious leaders who opposed them a “brood of vipers.” (see Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7; Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23:33) Instead of accepting Jesus, they were always nipping at His heels (Genesis 3:15) to prove Him wrong. As the teachers of Israel, these religious leaders were keeping God’s people from the Truth and the Messiah. The venom (untruth and hatred) of this “brood of vipers” was preventing people from receiving eternal life.  Many Israelites would remain dead in sin because these religious leaders talked and fought against Jesus instead of leading the Jews to Him for eternal life. The Romans (gentiles) also nipped at Jesus’ heels keeping people from coming to Jesus for eternal life. Keep in mind that Nicodemus is a Pharisee! Jesus using this event in the Older Testament must have troubled Nicodemus. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the devil will continually nip at your heels to keep you from receiving all that God has provided through His chosen and precious Son Jesus. Rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit and Word to defeat the wiles of the devil, just as Jesus did. The ways of Jesus are the antidote to the ways of the devil. Jesus provided the Way, the Truth and the Life. The power of His blood and resurrection will breathe new life in the Spirit and in Truth into us.
            Jesus became a curse for us. (see Galatians 3:13) He was made sin on our behalf. (see 2 Corinthians 5:21) He bore our sins in His body. (see 1 Peter 2:4) Jesus came in the likeness of flesh but He had no sin. No other human can make this claim. Therefore, God had to send His Holy Son to save, deliver, heal and give us the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat sin and the devil. The work of the bronze serpent was temporary, but Jesus’ work on the cross is permanent and eternal. Jesus became the bronze serpent for us. Just as the vipers poisoned the disobedient Israelites, all of humanity is poisoned by sin. The cross of Jesus Christ is God’s emblem of freedom from sin and Divine judgment for sin. Jesus bore the wrath of God for sin for us. Because of Jesus, God is for us, not against us.
            Jesus is our banner/standard. God wants His people to allow the Word and the Holy Spirit to put our sinful flesh to death so we will walk in the abundant spiritual life and glory that Jesus’ death on the cross provides. Every sinner’s destiny is based upon his or her response to God and His Word. Those who respond to Jesus who is the Word of God and obey it will be healed and receive eternal life. God illustrated what happens when His people reject God’s provision. Jesus is the Bread and Water of Life. Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty…..it was not Moses who has given you the bread of heaven, but it is My Heavenly Father who give you the true bread of heaven, for the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” The Jews pretty much idolized Moses. Jesus is saying that it wasn’t Moses but God who sent the bread of heaven. Jesus is the Living Bread of God sent from God. The manna in the wilderness in the Older Testament maintained physical life, but Jesus, the spiritual Bread of heaven, maintains eternal spiritual life.
            Moses lifted up the serpent of judgment and condemnation, but Jesus was lifted up not to condemn and judge, but to save and show us the unfailing, undying love of the Father 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.” V18 Jesus wanted Nicodemus and us to understand this. Jesus is God’s gift to mankind, but a gift is not a gift until it is received and opened.

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