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The Fourth Gospel
A Study of the Gospel according to JOHN
3: 14 - 30.
pp. 5 - 10
"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" (3: 14, 15).
In order to assist the understanding of Nicodemus, Christ gives him a practical
illustration from Israel's past history. It is recorded in Numb. 21: The nation was
plagued by fiery serpents whose bite was fatal. Moses was instructed by God and made a
bronze serpent and placed it on a pole. All who were bitten were cured if they looked at
this serpent. The Lord was teaching that just as the metal serpent was raised aloft on a
pole and placed where everyone could see it, so He must be lifted up too on the cross.
The Greek hupsoo always refers to the cross (John 8: 28; 12: 32, 34) and includes the
Ascension (Acts 2: 33; 5: 31), and so the Lord Jesus was not only glorified on the cross
but also when He was raised and received back into glory with the Father.
Note the "must" in the phrase "the Son of Man must be lifted up"; this is parallel with
the insistence that "the Son of Man must suffer". In no case could these two experiences
be avoided. It was the "must" of divine purpose, so clearly foretold in the O.T. (Isa. 53:),
upon which the whole great work of redemption rests.
It should be obvious too from this context that the Lord Jesus Christ believed in the
historical truth of Moses and the brazen serpent. It will not do to say that He
accommodated Himself to the ideas of His day. Such language only shows that it is
rooted in unbelief. The Lord not only asserted the truthfulness of the O.T. Scriptures, but
claimed to be the Truth itself (14: 6).
When we come to John 3: 16, we arrive at what is probably the best known verse of
the New Testament, and has been instrumental in leading thousands out of spiritual death
unto life eternal all through this age. As 100: H. Welch says: "It stands so arrestingly
supreme in comprehensive scope, simple grandeur, and clear issues" (Life Through His
Name, p.103). He speaks of the unity of testimony throughout Christendom and says:
"We do well to hesitate long and meditate deeply before setting aside such a unity of
One of the problems of John's Gospel is to decide where the words of Christ end and
the comments of the Evangelist begin. There is no need to make a problem out of this,
for Christ is giving us the truth of the Father, and John is being guided by the Holy Spirit
in what he writes, so that we have divine truth in both cases.