Responding to Jesus (Week 1) Supplement

Jesus is Quoting Numbers 21:4-9 in John 3:13-15


In my sermon on Sunday, January 5, 2020, I referenced an Old Testament story, but did not have the time to elaborate upon it. In this short blog article, I am going to do just that. Enjoy!


Jesus the Christ declares in John 3:13-15,
“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”


To know what Jesus is talking about I have to take you back to the historical event Jesus is referencing from Numbers 21:4-9. While you read this I want you to take a look at the two pictures on the screen. Look closely: What is in the center of each patch—EMT and Medical Corps?  It is called a “caducea” or a version of one. You see snake(s) wrapped around a pole. While most understandings of the origin of the caducea are from Greek mythology, there is a Bible story that is far more ancient (by thousands of years) than these mythological origins.

Images were found on (accessed 1/8/20).


Numbers 21:4-9 reads,

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.


Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, to save the people, though this time, not just the Israelites. Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, not to heal venomous snake bites, but to deliver us from the effects of the Fall, all of us have been affected by that original serpent in the Garden, Satan, who tempted the first people to sin.


You see this idea clearly expressed in Romans 5:12-17,

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.


Our response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross starts with putting our faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life. That is and always will be our most important response to Jesus being lifted up—Faith! And not just any faith—the object of your faith must be Jesus Christ! This is God’s grace for our lives as Jesus draws you to Himself according to God’s will and for God’s glory.


It is amazing to me how our culture continues to capture these biblical images without understanding their origin or meaning. It is my hope that more people will realize that every EMT is putting on display the grace of God in their life-saving work. Every doctor is putting on display the life-saving work of Jesus Christ in their medical practice. All healing in this life is a good gift from God, but temporary. Whereas eternal life is the ultimate healing, only possible through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross.


From this time forward, whenever you see the caducea, may you think of Jesus lifted up so that all people will be drawn to Him. May you see the common grace of God declaring the finished work of Jesus Christ for all who are in need of healing.