John 3:14
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTeedTTBVWSWESTSK
(14) And as Moses lifted up.—This verse is closely connected by the conjunction “and” with what has gone before. Jesus has taught that in Himself heaven and earth meet; so that, while subject to the conditions of human life, He, the Son of Man, the representative of humanity, is in heaven. He goes on to show that what is true of the representative is, through Him, true of the whole race. Again the Old Testament Scriptures form the basis of the teaching to their expounder. The people in the wilderness bitten by the fiery serpents, the poison-virus spreading through their veins, and causing burning pain, torpor, and death—this was symbolical of the world lying in the misery, restlessness, and spiritual death, which came from the Serpent’s victory in Paradise. The serpent of brass lifted up by Moses, in which the sufferer saw the means of recovery determined by God, and was healed by faith in Him—this was symbolical of the means of salvation determined by God for the world. (Comp. the phrase “lifted up” in John 8:28; John 12:32; and, as an exact parallel with this passage, John 12:34) Nicodemus must have understood that the healing power of the serpent of brass was in the fact that it led men to trust in Jehovah, who had appointed it. This was the current Jewish interpretation. Comp. the Jerusalem Targum, “Their faces were to be fixed on their Father who is in heaven;” so the Targum of Jonathan ben-Uziel, “The heart was fixed on the name of the word of Jehovah;” so, again, the Wisdom of Solomon, “For he that turned himself toward it was not saved by the thing that he saw, but by Thee, that art the Saviour of all” (Wisdom Of Solomon 16:7; see the whole passage, Wisdom Of Solomon 16:6-13). It was the sign of the Eternal in power and in love present to save, and the man who realised that presence lived with a new life. In the divine counsels it was willed, and must be, that the Son of Man should be the witness to the world of the Eternal Power and Love which saves every man who grasps it.



John 3:14

This is the second of the instances in this Gospel in which our Lord lays His hand upon an institution or incident of the Old Testament, as shadowing forth some aspect of His work. In the first of these instances, under the image of the ladder that Jacob saw, our Lord presented Himself as the sole medium of communication between heaven and earth; here He goes a step further into the heart of His work, and under the image, very eloquent to the Pharisee to whom He was speaking, of the brazen serpent lifted up on the pole in the desert, proclaims Himself as the medium of healing and of life to a poisoned world.

Now, Nicodemus has a great many followers to-day. He took up a position which many take up. He recognised Christ as a Teacher, and was willing to accord to the almost unknown young man from Galilee the coveted title of ‘Rabbi.’ He came to Him with a little touch of condescension, and evidently thought that for him, a ruler of the Jews, a member of the upper and educated classes, to be willing to speak of Jesus as a Teacher, was an endorsement that the young aspirant might be gratified to receive. ‘Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher sent from God’-but he stopped there. He is not the only one who compliments Jesus Christ, while he degrades Him from His unique position. Now, to this inadequate conception of our Lord’s Person and work, Christ opposed the solemn insistence on the incapacity of human nature as it is, to enter into communion with, and submission to, God. And then He passes on to speak-in precise parallelism with the position that He took up when He likened Himself to the Ladder of Jacob’s vision-of Himself as being the Son of Man that came down from Heaven, and therefore is able to reveal heavenly things. In my text He further unveils in symbol the mystery and dignity of His Person and of His work, whilst He speaks of a mysterious lifting up of this Son of Man who came down from heaven. These are the truths that the conception of Christ as a great Teacher needs for its completion; the contrariety of human nature with the divine will, the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Crucifixion of the Incarnate Son. And so we have here three points, to which I desire to turn, as setting forth the conception of His own work which Jesus Christ presented as completing the conception of it, to which Nicodemus had attained.

I. There is, first, the lifting up of the Son of Man.

Now, of course, the sole purpose of setting that brazen serpent on the pole was to render it conspicuous, and all that Nicodemus could then understand by the symbol was that, in some unknown way, this heaven-descended Son of Man should be set forth before Israel and the world as being the Healer of all their diseases. But we are wiser, after the event, than the ruler of the Jews could be at the threshold of Christ’s ministry. We have also to remember that this is not the only occasion, though it is the first, on which our Lord used this very significant expression. For twice over in this Gospel we find it upon His lips-once when, addressing the unbelieving multitude, He says ‘When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He’; and once when in soliloquy, close on Calvary, He says, as the vision of a world flocking to Him rises before Him on occasion of the wish of a few Greek proselytes to see Him, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.’ We do not need, though we have, the Evangelist’s commentary, ‘this He spake signifying what death He should die.’

So, if we accept the historical veracity of this Gospel, we here perceive Jesus Christ, at the very beginning of His career, and before the dispositions of the nation towards Him had developed themselves in action, discerning its end, and seeing, gaunt and grim before Him, the Cross that was lifted up on Calvary. Enthusiasts and philanthropists and apostles of all sorts, in the regions of science and beneficence and morals and religion, begin their career with trusting that their ‘brethren should have understood’ that God was speaking through them. But no illusion of that sort, according to these Evangelists, drew Jesus Christ out of His seclusion at Nazareth and impelled Him on His career. From the beginning He knew that the Cross was to be the end. That Cross was not to Him a necessity, accepted as the price of faithfulness in doing His work, so that His attitude was, ‘I will speak what is in Me, though I die for it,’ but it was to Him the very heart of the work which He came to do. Therefore, after He had said to the ruler of the Jews that the Son of Man, as descended from Heaven, was able to speak of heavenly things, He added the deeper necessity, He ‘must be lifted up.’ Where lay the ‘must’? In the requirement of the work which He had set Himself to do. Beneath this great saying there lies a pathetic, stern, true conception of the condition of human nature. That desert encampment, with the poisoned men dying on every hand, is the emblem under which Jesus Christ, the gentlest and the sweetest soul that ever lived, looked out upon humanity. And it was because the facts of human nature called for something far more than a teacher that He said ‘the Son of Man must be lifted up.’ For what they needed, and what He had set Himself to bring, could only be brought by One who yielded Himself up for the sins of the whole world.

But that ‘must,’ which thus arose from the requirements of the task that He had set before Him, had its source in His own heart; it was no necessity imposed upon Him from without. True, it was a necessity laid on Him by filial obedience, but also true, it was the necessity accepted by Him in pursuance of the impulse of His own heart. He must die because He must save, and He must save because He loved. So He was not nailed to the Cross by the nails and hammers of the Roman soldiers, and the taunt that was flung at Him as He hung there had a deeper meaning, as scoffs thrown at Him and His cause ordinarily have, than the scoffers understood: ‘He saved others,’ and therefore ‘Himself He cannot save.’

So here we have Christ accepting, as well as discerning, the Cross. And we have more than that. We have Christ looking at the Cross as being, not humiliation, but exaltation. ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up.’ And what does that mean? It means the same thing that He said when, near the end, He declared, ‘The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.’ We are accustomed to speak-and we speak rightly-of His death as being the lowest point of the humiliation which was inherent in the very fact of His humanity. He condescended to be born; He stooped yet more to die. But whilst that is true, the other side is also true-that in the Cross Christ is lifted up, and that it is His Throne. For what see we there? The highest exhibition, the tenderest revelation, of His perfect love. And what see we there besides? The supreme manifestation of the highest power.

‘‘Twas great to speak a world from nought,

‘Tis greater to redeem.’

To save humanity, to make it possible that men should receive that second birth, and should enter into the Kingdom of God-that was a greater work, because a work not only of creation, but of restoration, than it was to send forth the stars on their courses and to ‘preserve’ the ancient heavens ‘from wrong.’ There is a revelation of divine might when we ‘lift up our eyes on high,’ and see how, ‘because He is great in power, not one faileth.’ But there is a mightier revelation of divine power when we see how, from amidst the ruins of humanity, He can restore the divine image, and piece together, as it were, without sign of flaw or crack or one fragment wanting, the fair image that was shattered into fragments by the blow of Sin’s heavy mace. Power in its highest operation, power in its tenderest efficacy, power in its widest sweep, are set forth on the Cross of Christ, and that weak Man hanging there, dying in the dark, is ‘the power of God’ as well as ‘the wisdom of God.’ The Cross is Christ’s Throne, but it is His sovereign manifestation of love and power only if it is what, as I believe He told us it was, and what His servants from His lips caught the interpretation of it as being, the death for the sins of the sin-stricken world. Unless we can believe that, when He died, He died for us, I know not why Christ’s death should appeal to our love. But if we recognise-as I pray that we all may recognise-that our deep need for something far more than Teacher or Pattern has been met in that great ‘one Sacrifice for sins for ever,’ then the magnetism of the Cross begins to tell, and we understand what He meant when He said, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.’ Brethren, the Cross is His Throne, from which He rules the world, and if you strike His sacrifice for sins out of your conception of His work, you have robbed Him of sovereignty, and taken out of His hand the sceptre by which He governs the hearts and wills of rebellious and restored men.

II. Notice, again, how we have here the look at the uplifted Son of Man.

I do not need to paint for you what your own imaginations can sufficiently paint for yourselves-the scene in the wilderness where the dying men from the very outskirts of the camp could turn a filmy eye to the brazen serpent hanging in their midst. That look is the symbol of what we need, in order that the life-giving power of Christ should enter into our death. There is no better description of the act of Christian faith than that picture of the dying Israelite turning his languid eye to the symbol of healing and life. That trust which Jesus emphasises here in ‘whosoever believeth on Him,’ He opposes very emphatically to Nicodemus’s confession, ‘We know that Thou art a Teacher.’ We know-you have to go a step further, Nicodemus! ‘We know’; well and good, but are you included in ‘whosoever believeth’? Faith is an advance on credence. There is an intellectual side to it, but its essence is what is the essence of trust always, the act of the will throwing itself on that which is discerned to be trustworthy. You know that a given man is reliable-that is not relying on him. You have to go a step further. And so, dear brethren, you may believe thirty-nine or thirty-nine thousand Articles with an unfaltering credence, and you may be as far away from faith as if you did not believe one of them. There may be a perfect belief and an absolute want of faith. And on the other hand, blessed be God! there may be a real and an operative trust with a very imperfect or mistaken creed. The wild flowers on the rock bloom fair and bright, though they have scarcely any soil in which to strike their roots, and the plants in the most fertile garden may fail to produce flowers and seed. So trust and credence are not always of the same magnitude.

This trust is no arbitrary condition. The Israelite was bid to turn to the brazen serpent. There was no connection between his look and his healing, except in so far as the symbol was a help to, and looking at it was a test of, his faith in the healing power of God. But it is no arbitrary appointment, as many people often think it is, which connects inseparably together the look of faith and the eternal life that Christ gives. For seeing that salvation is no mere external gift of shutting up some outward Hell and opening the door to some outward Heaven, but is a state of heart and mind, of relation to God, the only way by which that salvation can come into a man’s heart is that he, knowing his need of it, shall trust Christ, and through Him the new life will flow into his heart. Faith is trust, and trust is the stretching out of the hand to take the precious gift, the opening of the heart for the influx of the grace, the eating of the bread, the drinking of the water, of life.

It is the only possible condition. God forbid that I should even seem to depreciate other forms of healing men’s evils and redressing men’s wrongs, and diminishing the sorrows of humanity! We welcome them all; but education, art, culture, refinement, improved environment, bettered social and political conditions, whilst they do a great deal, do not go down to the bottom of the necessity. And after you have built your colleges and art museums and stately pleasure-houses, and set every man in an environment that is suited to develop him, you will find out what surely the world might have found out already, that, as in some stately palace built in the Campagna, the malaria is in the air, and steals in at the windows, and infects all the inhabitants. Thank God for all these other things! but you cannot heal a man who has poison in his veins by administering cosmetics, and you cannot put out Vesuvius with a jugful of water. If the camp is to be healed, the Christ must be lifted up.

III. And now, lastly, here we have the life that comes with a look at the lifted-up Son of Man.

Those of you who are using the Revised Version will see that there is a little change made here, partly by the exclusion of a clause and partly by changing the order of the words. The alteration is not only nearer the original text, but brings out a striking thought. It reads that ‘whosoever believeth may in Him have eternal life.’ Now, it is far too late a period of my discourse to enlarge upon all that these great words would suggest to us, but let me just, in a sentence or two, mark the salient points.

‘Eternal life’; do not bring that down to the narrow and inadequate conception of unending existence. It involves that, but it means a great deal more. It means a life of such a sort as is worth calling life, which is a life in union with God, and therefore full of blessedness, full of purity, full of satisfaction, full of desire and aspiration, and all these with the stamp of unendingness deeply impressed upon them. And that is what comes to us through the look. Not only is the process of dying arrested, but there is substituted for it a new process of growing possession of a new life. You ‘must be born again,’ Christ had been saying to Nicodemus. The change that passes upon a man when once he has anchored his trust on Jesus Christ, the uplifted Son of Man, is so profound that it is nothing else than a new birth, and a new life comes into his veins untainted by the poison, and with no proclivity to death.

‘May have eternal life’-now, here, on the instant. That eternal life is no future gift to be bestowed upon mortal men when they have passed through the agony of death, but it is a gift which comes to us here, and may come to any man on the instant of his looking to Jesus Christ.

‘May in Him have eternal life’-union with Christ by faith, that profound incorporation-if I may use the word-into Him, which the New Testament sets forth in all sorts of aspects as the very foundation of the blessings of Christianity; that union is the condition of eternal life. So, dear brethren, we all need that the poison shall be cast out of our veins. We all need that the tendency downwards to a condition which can only be described as death may be arrested, and the motion reversed. We all need that our knowledge shall be vitalised into faith. We all need that the past shall be forgiven, and the power of sin upon us in the present shall be cancelled. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,’ because it was shed for the remission of the sins of the many, and is transfused, an untainted principle of life, into our veins. What Jesus said to Nicodemus by night in that quiet chamber in Jerusalem, what He said in effect and act upon the Cross, when uplifted there, is what He says to each of us from the Throne where He is now lifted up: ‘Whosoever believeth shall in Me have eternal life.’ Take Him at His word, and you will find that it is true.



John 3:14

I have chosen this text for the sake of one word in it, that solemn ‘must’ which was so often on our Lord’s lips. I have no purpose of dealing with the remainder of this clause, nor indeed with it at all, except as one instance of His use of the expression. But I have felt it might he interesting, and might set old truths in a brighter light, if we gather together the instances in which Christ speaks of the great necessity which dominated His life, and shaped even small acts.

The expression is most frequently used in reference to the Passion and Resurrection. There are many instances in the Gospels, in which He speaks of that must. The first of these is that of my text. Then there is another class, of which His word to His mother when a twelve-year-old child may be taken as a type: ‘Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?’ where the mysterious consciousness of a special relation to God in the child’s heart drew Him to the Temple and to His Father’s work. Other similar instances are those in which He responded to the multitude when they wanted to keep Him to themselves: ‘I must preach in other cities also’; or as when He said, ‘I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day.’

Yet another aspect of the same necessity is presented when, looking far beyond the earthly work and suffering, He discerned the future triumph which was to be the issue of these, and said, ‘Other sheep I have . . . them also I must bring.’

And yet another is in reference to a very small matter: His selection of a place for a few hours’ rest on His last fateful journey to Jerusalem, when He said, ‘Zaccheus, . . . to-day I must abide at thy house.’

Now, if we put these instances together, we shall get some precious glimpses into our Lord’s heart, and His view of life.

I. Here we see Christ recognising and accepting the necessity for His death.

My text, if we accept John’s Gospel, contributes an altogether new element to our conception of our Lord as announcing His death. For the other three Gospels lay emphasis on it as being part of His teaching, especially during the later stage of His ministry. But it does not follow that He began to think about it or to see it, when He began to speak about it. There are reasons for the earlier comparative reticence, and there is no ground for the conclusion that then first began to dawn upon a disappointed enthusiast the grim reality that His work was not going to prosper, and that martyrdom was necessary. That is a notion that has been frequently upheld of late years, but to me it seems altogether incongruous with the facts of the case. And, if John’s Gospel is a true record, that theory is shivered against this text, which represents Him at the very beginning of His career-the time when, according to that other theory, He was full of the usual buoyant and baseless anticipations of a reformer commencing His course-as telling Nicodemus, ‘Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.’ In like manner, in the previous chapter of this same Gospel, we have the significant though enigmatical utterance: ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up’; with the Evangelist’s authoritative comment: ‘He spake of the Temple of His body.’ So, from the beginning of His career, the end was clear before Him.

And why must He go to the Cross? Not merely, as the other Evangelists put it, in order that ‘it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the prophets.’ It was not that Jesus must die because the prophets had said that Messiah should, but that the prophets had said that Messiah should because Jesus must. There was a far deeper necessity than the fulfilment of any prophetic utterance, even the necessity which shaped that utterance. The work of Jesus Christ could not be done unless He died. He could not be the Saviour of the world unless He was the sacrifice for the sins of the world.

We cannot see all the grounds of that solemn imperative, but this we can see, that it was because of the requirements of the divine righteousness, and because of the necessities of sinful men. And so Christ’s was no martyr’s death, who had to die as the penalty of the faithful discharge of His duty. It was not the penalty that He paid for doing His work, but it was the work itself. Not that gracious life, nor ‘the loveliness of perfect deeds,’ nor His words of sweet wisdom, nor His acts of transcendent power, equalled only by the pity that moved the power, completed His task, but He ‘came to give His life a ransom for many.’

‘Must’ is a hard word. It may express an unwelcome necessity. Was this necessity unwelcome? When He said, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up,’ was He shrinking, or reluctantly submitting? Ah, no! He must die because He would save, and He would save because He did love. His filial obedience to God coincided with His pity for men: and not merely in obedience to the requirements of the divine righteousness, but in compassion for the necessities of sinners, necessity was laid upon Him.

Oh, brethren! nothing held Christ to the Cross but His own desire to save us. Neither priests nor Romans carried Him thither. What fastened Him to it was not the nails driven by rude hands. And the reason why He did not, as the taunters bade Him do, come down from it, was neither a physical nor a moral necessity unwelcome to Himself, but the yielding of His own will to do all which was needed for man’s salvation.

This sacrifice was bound to the altar by the cords of love. We have heard of martyrs who have refused to be tied to the stake, and have kept themselves motionless in the centre of the fierce flames by the force of their wills. Jesus Christ fastened Himself to the Cross and died because He would.

And, oh! if we think of that sweet, serene life as having clear before it from the very first steps that grim end, how infinitely it gains in pathetic beauty and in heart-touchingness! What wonderful self-abnegation! How he was at leisure from Himself, with a heart of pity for every sorrow, and loins girt for all service, though during all His life the Cross closed the vista! Think that human shrinking was felt by Him, think that it was so held back that His purpose never faltered, think that each of us may say, ‘He must die because He would save me’; and then ask, ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?’

II. In a second class of these utterances, we see Christ impelled by filial obedience and the consciousness of His mission.

‘Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?’ That was a strange utterance for a boy of twelve. It seems to negative the supposition that what is called the ‘Messianic consciousness’ dawned upon Jesus Christ first after His baptism and the descent of the Spirit. But however that may be, it and the similar passages to which I have already referred, bearing upon His discharge of His work prior to His death, teach that the necessity was an inward necessity springing from His consciousness of Sonship, and His recognition of the work that He had to do. And so He is our great Example of spontaneous obedience, which does violence to itself if it does not obey. It was instinct that sent the boy into the Temple. Where should a Son be but in His Father’s house? How could He not be doing His Father’s business?

Thus He stands before us, the pattern for the only obedience that is worth calling so, the obedience which would be pained and ill at ease unless it were doing the work of God. Religion is meant to make it a second nature, or, as I have ventured to call it, an instinct-a spontaneous, uncalculating, irrepressible desire-to be in fellowship with God, and to be doing His will. That is the meaning of our Christianity. There is no obedience in reluctant obedience; forced service is slavery, not service. Christianity is given for the specific purpose that it may bring us so into touch with Jesus Christ as that the mind which was in Him may be in us; and that we too may be able to say, with a kind of wonder that people should have expected to find us in any other place, or doing anything else, ‘Wist ye not that because I am a Son, I must be about my Father’s business?’ As certainly as the sunflower follows the sun, so certainly will a man animated by the mind that was in Jesus Christ, like Him find his very life’s breath in doing the Father’s will.

So then, brethren, what about our grudging service? What about our reluctant obedience? What about the widespread mistake that religion prohibits wished-for things and enforces unwelcome duties? If my Christianity does not make me recoil from what it forbids, and spring eagerly to what it commends, my Christianity is of very little use. If when in the Temple we are like idle boys in school, always casting glances at the clock and the door, and wishing ourselves outside, we may just as well be out as in. Glad obedience is true obedience. Only he who can say, ‘Thy law is within my heart, and I do Thy will because I love Thee, and cannot but do as Thou desirest,’ has found the joy possible to a Christian life. It is not ‘harsh and crabbed,’ as those that look upon it from the outside may ‘suppose,’ but musical and full of sweetness. There is nothing more blessed than when ‘I choose’ covers exactly the same ground as ‘I ought.’ And when duty is delight, delight will never become disgust, nor joy pass away.

III. We see, in yet another use of this great ‘must,’ Christ anticipating His future triumph.

‘Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.’ Striking as these words are in themselves, they are still more striking when we notice their connection; for they follow immediately upon His utterance about laying down His life for the sheep. So, then, this was a work beyond the Cross, and whatever it was, it was to be done after He had died.

I need not point out to you how far afield Christ’s vision goes out into the dim, waste places, where on the dark mountains the straying sheep are torn and frightened and starving. I need not dwell upon how far ahead in the future His glance travels, or how magnificent and how rebuking to our petty narrowness this great word is. ‘There shall be one flock’ {not fold}; and they shall be one, not because they are within the bounds of any visible ‘fold,’ but because they are gathered round the one Shepherd, and in their common relation to Him are knit together in unity.

But what sort of a Man is this who considers that His widest work is to be done by Him after He is dead? ‘Them also I must bring.’ Thou? how? when? Surely such words as these, side by side with a clear prevision of the death that was so soon to come, are either meaningless or the utterance of an arrogance bordering on insanity, or they anticipate what an Evangelist declares did take place-that the Lord was ‘taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God,’ whilst His servants ‘went everywhere preaching the Word, the Lord also working with them and confirming the Word’ with the signs He wrought.

‘Them also I must bring.’ That is not merely a necessity rooted in the nature of God and the wants of men. It is not merely a necessity springing from Christ’s filial obedience and sense of a mission; but it is a ‘must’ of destiny, a ‘must’ which recognises the sure results of His passion; a ‘must’ which implies the power of the Cross to be the reconciliation of the world. And so for all pessimistic thoughts to-day, or at any time, and when Christian men’s hearts may be trembling for the Ark of God-although, perhaps, there may be little reason for the tremor-and in the face of all blatant antagonisms and of proud Goliaths despising the ‘foolishness of preaching,’ we fall back upon Christ’s great ‘must.’ It is written in the councils of Heaven more unchangeably than the heavens; it is guaranteed by the power of the Cross; it is certain, by the eternal life of the crucified Saviour, that He will one day be the King of humanity, and must bring His wandering sheep to couch in peace, one flock round one Shepherd.

IV. Lastly, we have Christ applying the greatest principle to the smallest duty.

‘Zaccheus! make haste and come down; to-day I must abide in thy house.’ Why must He? Because Zaccheus was to be saved, and was worth saving. What was the ‘must’? To stop for an hour or two on His road to the Cross. So He teaches us that in a life penetrated by the thought of the divine will, which we gladly obey, there are no things too great, and none too trivial, to be brought under the dominion of that law, and to be regulated by that divine necessity. Obedience is obedience, whether in large things or in small. There is no scale of magnitude applicable to the distinction between God’s will and that which is not God’s will. Gravitation rules the motes that dance in the sunshine as well as the mass of Jupiter. A triangle with its apex in the sun, and its base beyond the solar system, has the same properties and comes under the same laws as one that a schoolboy scrawls upon his slate. God’s truth is not too great to rule the smallest duties. The star in the East was a guide to the humble house at Bethlehem, and there are starry truths high in the heavens that avail for our guidance in the smallest acts of life.

So, brethren, bring your doings under that all-embracing law of duty-duty, which is the heathen expression for the will of God. There are great regions of life in which lower necessities have play. Circumstances, our past, bias and temper, relationship, friendship, civic duty, and the like-all these bring their necessities; but let us think of them all as being, what indeed they are, manifestations to us of the will of our Father. There are great tracts of life in which either of two courses may be right, and we are left to the decision of choice rather than of duty; but high above all these, let us see towering that divine necessity. It is a daily struggle to bring ‘I will’ to coincide with ‘I ought’; and there is only one adequate and always powerful way of securing that coincidence, and that is to keep close to Jesus Christ and to drink in His spirit. Then, when duty and delight are conterminous, ‘the rough places will be plain, and the crooked things straight, and every mountain shall be brought low, and every valley shall be exalted,’ and life will be blessed, and service will be freedom. Joy and liberty and power and peace will fill our hearts when this is the law of our being; ‘All that the Lord hath spoken, that must I do.’John 3:14-15. As Moses lifted up the serpent — As if he had said, And even this single witness, bearing testimony of heavenly things, will soon be taken from you; yea, and in a most ignominious manner. Or, as Dr. Doddridge connects the words with what precedes, “And now I mention the Son of man, let me rectify that grand mistake of yours concerning his kingdom, which otherwise may be attended with fatal consequences. You expect to see him raised on a magnificent throne; and not only breaking off the yoke from the Jewish nation, but leading them on to conquer and destroy the Gentiles; but I must assure you that, as Moses lifted up, [Greek, υψωσε, raised on high, namely, on a pole,] the serpent in the wilderness — To heal those that were dying by the venom of the fiery serpents there; even so must the Son of man be lifted up — On a cross, (see the margin,) and then publicly exhibited in the preaching of the gospel, that sinners may by him receive a far more noble and important cure; even that whosoever believeth in him should not perish — As all in their natural state otherwise would; but may obtain so perfect a recovery as certainly to have eternal life” — For all those who look to him, and rely on him by faith, recover spiritual life and health. The reader will observe, 1st, That the grand point of similitude here is, in the manner of performing the cure, that is, by believing regards to what was lifted up, or raised on high, for that purpose, by a divine appointment. 2d, That the passage strongly implies, that as the wounded Israelites would have died if they had not looked to the brazen serpent for a cure, so will men, wounded by sin, original and actual, assuredly perish, and that eternally, if they do not look to, and believe on Christ, delivered unto death for their offences, and raised from the dead for their justification; which great truth is still more strongly expressed, John 3:18. 3d, That our Lord, by telling Nicodemus, that the death of the Messiah was prefigured by types in the law, showed him, that it was agreeable both to the doctrine of Moses, and to the counsels of heaven, that the Messiah should be in a suffering state; and consequently he intimated that the meanness of his present appearance on earth was no reason why any should doubt of his having been, and still being in heaven.3:1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, ch. 1:13, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, ver. 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the HE THAT IS, and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, Nu 21:6-9. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?And as Moses - Jesus proceeds in this and the following verses to state the reason why he came into the world and, in order to this, he illustrates His design, and the efficacy of his coming, by a reference to the case of the brass serpent, recorded in Numbers 21:8-9. The people were bitten by flying fiery serpents. There was no cure for the bite. Moses was directed to make an image of the serpent, and place it in sight of the people, that they might look on it and be healed. There is no evidence that this was intended to be a type of the Messiah, but it is used by Jesus as strikingly illustrating his work. Men are sinners. There is no cure by human means for the maladies of the soul; and as the people who were bitten might look on the image of the serpent and be healed, so may sinners look to the Saviour and be cured of the moral maladies of our nature.

Lifted up - Erected on a pole. Placed on high, So that it might be seen by the people.

The serpent - The image of a serpent made of brass.

In the wilderness - Near the land of Edom. In the desert and desolate country to the south of Mount Hor, Numbers 21:4.

Even so - In a similar manner and with a similar design. He here refers, doubtless, to his own death. Compare John 12:32; John 8:28. The points of resemblance between his being lifted up and that of the brass serpent seem to be these:

1. In each case those who are to be benefited can he aided in no other way. The bite of the serpent was deadly, and could be healed only by looking on the brass serpent; and sin is deadly in its nature, and can be removed only by looking on the cross.

2. The mode of their being lifted up. The brass serpent was in the sight of the people. So Jesus was exalted from the earth raised on a tree or cross.

3. The design was similar. The one was to save the life, the other the soul; the one to save from temporal, the other from eternal death.

4. The manner of the cure was similar. The people of Israel were to look on the serpent and be healed, and so sinners are to look on the Lord Jesus that they may be saved.

Must - It is proper; necessary; indispensable, if men are saved. Compare Luke 24:26; Luke 22:42.

The Son of man - The Messiah.

14-16. And as Moses, &c.—Here now we have the "heavenly things," as before the "earthly," but under a veil, for the reason mentioned in Joh 3:12. The crucifixion of Messiah is twice after this veiled under the same lively term—"uplifting," Joh 8:28; 12:32, 33. Here it is still further veiled—though to us who know what it means, rendered vastly more instructive—by reference to the brazen serpent. The venom of the fiery serpents, shooting through the veins of the rebellious Israelites, was spreading death through the camp—lively emblem of the perishing condition of men by reason of sin. In both cases the remedy was divinely provided. In both the way of cure strikingly resembled that of the disease. Stung by serpents, by a serpent they are healed. By "fiery serpents" bitten—serpents, probably, with skin spotted fiery red [Kurtz]—the instrument of cure is a serpent of brass or copper, having at a distance the same appearance. So in redemption, as by man came death, by Man also comes life—Man, too, "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Ro 8:3), differing in nothing outward and apparent from those who, pervaded by the poison of the serpent, were ready to perish. But as the uplifted serpent had none of the venom of which the serpent-bitten people were dying, so while the whole human family were perishing of the deadly wound inflicted on it by the old serpent, "the Second Man," who arose over humanity with healing in His wings, was without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. In both cases the remedy is conspicuously displayed; in the one case on a pole, in the other on the cross, to "draw all men unto Him" (Joh 12:32). In both cases it is by directing the eye to the uplifted Remedy that the cure is effected; in the one case the bodily eye, in the other the gaze of the soul by "believing in Him," as in that glorious ancient proclamation—"Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth," &c. (Isa 45:22). Both methods are stumbling to human reason. What, to any thinking Israelite, could seem more unlikely than that a deadly poison should be dried up in his body by simply looking on a reptile of brass? Such a stumbling-block to the Jews and to the Greeks foolishness was faith in the crucified Nazarene as a way of deliverance from eternal perdition. Yet was the warrant in both cases to expect a cure equally rational and well grounded. As the serpent was God's ordinance for the cure of every bitten Israelite, so is Christ for the salvation of every perishing sinner—the one however a purely arbitrary ordinance, the other divinely adapted to man's complicated maladies. In both cases the efficacy is the same. As one simple look at the serpent, however distant and however weak, brought an instantaneous cure, even so, real faith in the Lord Jesus, however tremulous, however distant—be it but real faith—brings certain and instant healing to the perishing soul. In a word, the consequences of disobedience are the same in both. Doubtless many bitten Israelites, galling as their case was, would reason rather than obey, would speculate on the absurdity of expecting the bite of a living serpent to be cured by looking at a piece of dead metal in the shape of one—speculate thus till they died. Alas! is not salvation by a crucified Redeemer subjected to like treatment? Has the offense of the cross" yet ceased? (Compare 2Ki 5:12). The history of the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness we have, Numbers 21:8,9. The people being stung with fiery serpents, as a righteous judgment of God for their sins, as a merciful remedy God commanded Moses, Numbers 21:8, Make thee a fiery serpent, ( that is, the image or representation of one of those fiery serpents), and put it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. This brazen serpent in the wilderness was a lively type of Jesus Christ. Our Saviour having before spoken of the new birth as necessary to those who shall be saved, here comes to show it in the causes, and instances first in the meritorious, then in the instrumental, cause. The meritorious cause was his death; he saith, As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so he, who was the Son of man, must be lifted up; that is, die upon the cross: the phrase is used twice more in this Gospel, John 8:28 12:32,34, in allusion, doubtless, to this type. Yet Mr. Calvin thinks the

lifted up here more properly interpreted of the doctrine of the gospel, and by the preaching of it; and others apply it to Christ’s ascension into heaven. And this he tells Nicodemus must be, for the fulfilling the Scripture, and the counsels of his Father. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,.... The history referred to is in Numbers 21:8. There is, in many things, an agreement between this serpent, and Jesus Christ: as in the matter of it, it was a brazen serpent; it was made not of gold, nor of silver, but of brass, the meaner metal, and was a very unlikely means, of itself, to heal the Israelites; and might be despised by many: this may denote the meanness of Christ in his human nature, in his birth and parentage, and place of education and converse; and especially in his crucifixion and death; and which, to an eye of carnal sense and reason, seemed a very improbable means of saving sinners; and therefore were to some a stumbling block, and to others foolishness: though on the other hand, as brass is a shining metal, and might be chose for the serpent in the wilderness to be made of, that by the lustre of it the eyes of the Israelites might be attracted and directed to it, who were at the greatest distance in the camp; so it may be expressive of the glory of Christ, as the only begotten of the Father, and who is the brightness of his Father's glory; and which is the great attractive, motive, and inducement to engage souls to look unto him, and believe in him, Isaiah 45:22; and whereas brass is both a strong and durable metal, it may signify the strength of Christ, who is the mighty God, and mighty to save; and his duration, as a Saviour, being the same today, yesterday, and for ever: likewise, the comparison between the serpent Moses lifted up, and Christ, may be observed in the form of it. The brazen serpent had the form of a serpent, but not the poison and venomous nature of one; so Christ was sent, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was found in fashion as a man, as a sinful man, but was without sin, and was perfectly holy; and yet being in this form, was made both sin and a curse, that he might redeem his people both from sin, and from the curse of the law, by dying a death which denominated him accursed, of which the serpent was, an emblem: besides, this serpent was a fiery one; at least it looked like one of the fiery serpents, being of brass, which shone as though it burned in a furnace; and may be an emblem both of Christ's Father's wrath, which was poured out like fire upon him, and of his love to his people, which was like burning fire, the coals whereof gave a most vehement flame. Moreover, this serpent Moses made, and was ordered to make, was but "one", though the fiery serpents, with which the Israelites were bitten, were many; so there is but one Mediator between God and man; but one Saviour, in whom alone is salvation, and in no other, even Jesus Christ. To which may be added the "situation" in which this serpent was put: it was set by Moses on a pole; it was lifted up on high, that every one in the camp of Israel might see it; and may point out the ascension of Christ into heaven, and his exaltation at God's right hand there, as some think; or his being set up in the ministry of the word, and held forth and exalted there as the only Saviour of lost sinners; or rather his crucifixion, which is sometimes expressed by a lifting up, John 8:28. Once more, there is an agreement in the effect that followed upon the lifting up of the serpent; and which was the design of it, viz. the healing of such Israelites as were bitten by the fiery serpents, who looked to this: for as the Israelites were bitten by fiery serpents, with the poison of which they were infected, and were in danger of death, and to many of them their bitings were mortal; so men are poisoned with the venom of the old serpent the devil, by which they are subjected to a corporeal death, and are brought under a spiritual, or moral death, and are liable to an eternal one: and as these bitings were such as Moses could not cure; so the wounds of sin, through the old serpent, are such as cannot be healed by the law, moral or ceremonial, or by obedience to either; and as they were the Israelites who were convinced of their sin, and acknowledged it, and had a cure by looking to the brazen serpent; so such whom the Spirit of God convinces of sin, and to whom he gives the seeing eye of faith, these, through seeing, the Son, and looking to Jesus, as crucified and slain, receive healing by his stripes and wounds: and as those, who were ever so much bit and poisoned by the fiery serpents, or were at ever so great a distance from the pole, or had the weakest eye, yet if they could but discern the serpent on the pole, though it only appeared as a shining piece of brass, had a cure; so the greatest of sinners, and who are afar off from God, and all that is good, and who have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, or but glimmering view of Christ, of his glory, fulness, and suitableness, shall be saved by him. To add no more, this was done "in the wilderness": which may signify this world, Christ's coming into it, his crucifixion in it, and his going without the camp, bearing our reproach, or suffering without the gates of Jerusalem. It is certain, that the Jews had a notion that the brazen serpent was symbolical and figurative: Philo the Jew makes it to be a symbol of fortitude and temperance (t); and the author of the apocryphal book of Wisdom (u), calls it "a sign of salvation". They thought there was something mysterious in it: hence they say (w),

"in four places it is said, "make thee", &c. In three places it is explained, viz. Genesis 6:14, and one is not explained, Numbers 21:8, "make thee a fiery serpent", , is not explained.''

And elsewhere (x) they ask,

"and could the serpent kill, or make alive? But at the time that Israel looked up, and served with their hearts their Father which is in heaven, they were healed; but if not, they were brought low.''

So that the look was not merely to the brazen serpent, but to God in heaven; yea, to the word of God, his essential Logos, as say the Targumists on Numbers 21:9. The Jerusalem Targum paraphrases the words thus:

"and Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a high place, and whoever was bitten by the serpents, and lift up his face, in prayer, to his Father which is in heaven, and looked upon the serpent of brass, lived.''

And Jonathan ben Uzziel paraphrases them thus:

"and Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a high place; and it was, when a serpent had bitten any man, and he looked to the serpent of brass, "and directed his heart", , "to the name of the word of the Lord", he lived.''

And this healing they understand not only of bodily healing, but of the healing of the soul: for they observe (y), that

"as soon as they said, "we have sinned", immediately their iniquity was expiated; and they had the good news brought them "of the healing of the soul", as it is written, "make thee a seraph"; and he does not say a serpent; and this is it: "and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live", , "through the healing of the soul":''

yea, they compare the Messiah to a serpent; for so the Targum on Isaiah 14:29 paraphrases that passage:

"the Messiah shall come forth from Jesse's children's children; and his works shall be among you as a "flying serpent".''

And who else can be designed by the "other serpent of life" (z), and the "holy serpent" (a) they speak of, in opposition to the evil serpent that seduced Eve? And it is well known, that "a serpent", and "Messiah", are numerically, or by gematry, the same; a way of interpretation, and explanation, often in use with the Jews. Now, as this serpent was lifted up on a pole on high, that every one that was bitten with the fiery serpent might look to it, and be healed;

even so must the son of man be lifted up; upon the cross, and die: the crucifixion and death of Christ were necessary, and must be, because of the decrees and purposes of God, by which he was foreordained thereunto, and by which determinate counsel he was delivered, taken, crucified, and slain; and because of his own engagements as a surety, laying himself under obligations in the council and covenant of peace, to suffer, and die, in the room of his people; and because of the prophecies in the Old Testament, and his own predictions, that so it should be; as also, that the antitype might answer the type; and particularly, that he might be a suitable object of faith for wounded sinners, sensible of sin, to look unto.


And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
John 3:14-15. Jesus, having in John 3:13 stated the ground of faith in Him, now proceeds to show the blessedness of the believer—which was the design of His redemptive work—in order the more to incite those whom He is addressing to fulfil the fundamental condition, contained in faith, of participating in His kingdom. That this is the logical advance in the discourse, is clear from the fact that in what follows it is the blessedness of faith which is dwelt upon; see John 3:15-16; John 3:18. We have not here a transition from the possibility to the necessity of communicating heavenly things, John 3:13 (Lücke); nor from the ideal unveilings of divine things to the chief mystery of the doctrine of salvation which was manifested in historical reality (De Wette, comp. Tholuck and Brückner); nor from the first of divine things, Christ’s divinity, to the second, the atonement which He was to establish (Hengstenberg, comp. Godet); nor from the Word to His manifestation (Olshausen); nor from the work of enlightenment to that of blessing (Scholl); nor from the present want of faith to its future rise (Jacobi: “faith will first begin to spring up when my ὕψωσις is begun”); nor from Christ’s work to His person (B. Crusius); nor from His person to His work (Lange).

The event recorded in Numbers 21:8 is made use of by Jesus as a type of the divinely appointed manner and efficacy of His coming death,[160] to confirm a prophecy still enigmatical to Nicodemus, by attaching it to a well-known historical illustration. The points of comparison are: (1) the being lifted up (the well-known brazen sepent on the pole, and Jesus on the cross); (2) the being saved (restored to health by looking at the serpent, to eternal ζωή by believing on the crucified One). Comp. Wis 16:6, and, in the earliest Christian literature, Epist. of Barnabas, c. 12; Ignatius ad Smyrn. 2, interpol.; Justin, Apol. 1. 60, Dial. c. Tr. 94. Any further drawing out of the illustration is arbitrary, as, for instance, that of Bengel: “ut serpens ille fuit serpens sine veneno contra serpentes venenatos, sic Christus homo sine peccato contra serpentem antiquum,” comp. Luther and others, approved by Lechler in the Stud. u. Krit. 1854, p. 826. Lange goes furthest in this direction; comp. Ebrard on Olshausen, p. 104. There is, further, no typical element in the fact that the brazen serpent of Moses was a dead representative (“as the sign of its conquering through the healing power of the Lord,” Hengstenberg). For, apart from the fact that Christ was lifted up alive upon the cross, the circumstance of the brazen serpent being a lifeless thing is not made prominent either in Numbers 21 or here.

ὑψωθῆναι] not glorified, acknowledged in His exaltation (Paulus), which, following ὕψωσε, would be opposed to the context, but (comp. John 8:28, John 12:32-33) shall be lifted up, that is, on the cross,[161]—answering to the Aramaean זְקַף (comp. the Heb. זָקַף, Psalm 145:14; Psalm 146:8), a word used of the hanging up of the malefactor upon the beam. See Ezra 6:11; Gesenius, Thes. I. 428; Heydenreich in Hüffell’s Zeitschr. II. 1, p. 72 ff.; Brückner, 68, 69. Comp. Test. XII. patr. p. 739: κύριος ὑβρισθήσεται καὶ ἐπὶ ξύλου ὑψωθήσεται. The express comparison with the raising up of the brazen serpent, a story which must have been well known to Nicodemus, does not allow of our explaining ὑψωθήσ., as = רוּם, of the exaltation of Jesus to glory (Bleek, Beitr. 231), or as including this, so that the cross is the stepping-stone to glory (Lechler, Godet); or of referring it to the near coming of the kingdom, by which God will show Him in His greatness (Weizsäcker); or of our abiding simply by the idea of an exhibition (Hofmann, Weissag. u. Erf. II. 143), which Christ underwent in His public sufferings and death; or of leaving wholly out of account the form of the exaltation (which was certainly accomplished on the cross and then in heaven), (Luthardt), and conceiving of an exaltation for the purpose of being visible to all men (Holtzmann), as Schleiermacher also held (Leben Jesu, 345); or of assuming, as the meaning which was intelligible for Nicodemus, only that of removing, where Jesus, moreover, was conscious of His being lifted up on the cross and up to God (Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 1, 301).

δεῖ] according to the divine decree, Matthew 16:21, Luke 24:26, does not refer to the type, but only to the antitype (against Olshausen), especially as between the person of Christ and the brazen serpent as such no typical relation could exist.

Lastly, that Jesus should thus early make, though at the time an enigmatic, allusion to His death by crucifixion, is conceivable both on the ground of the doctrinal peculiarity of the event, and of the extraordinary importance of His death as the fact of redemption. See on John 2:19. And in the case of Nicodemus, the enigmatic germ then sown bore fruit, John 19:39.

Adopting the reading ἐν αὐτῷ (see Critical Notes), we cannot refer it to πιστεύων, but, as μὴ ἀπόληται, ἀλλʼ is spurious (see Critical Notes), to ἔχῃ: “every believer shall in Him (i.e. resting upon Him as the cause) have eternal life.” Comp. John 20:31, John 5:39, John 16:33, John 13:31.

ζωὴν αἰώνιον] eternal Messianic life, which, however, the believer already has (ἜΧῌ) as an internal possession in ΑἸῺΝ ΟὟΤΟς, viz. the present self-conscious development of the only true moral and blissful ΖΩΉ, which is independent of death, and whose consummation and full glory begin with the second advent. (Comp. John 6:40; John 6:44-45; John 6:54; John 6:58, John 14:3, John 17:24; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 4:9.)

[160] Which, consequently, He had clearly foreseen not for the first time in John 6:51 (Weizsäcker); comp. on John 2:19.

[161] The higher significance imparted to Christ’s person and work by His death (Baur, Neutest. Theol. 379) is not implied in the word ὑψωθῆναι, but in the comparison with the serpent, and in the sentence following, which expresses the object of the lifting up. This passage (comp. John 1:29) should have prevented Baur from asserting (p. 400) that the Pauline doctrine concerning such a significance in Christ’s death is wholly wanting in St. John’s doctrinal view. See also John 6:51; John 6:53-54.John 3:14. If the Son of Man alone has this knowledge, how is it to be disseminated and become a light to all men? This is answered in the words, καὶ καθὼς Μωσῆςτοῦ ἀνθρώπου [modern editors read Μωυσῆς; so also in LXX]. The emphatic word is ὕψωσε. When Moses made the brazen serpent, he did not secrete it in his tent and admit a few selected persons to view it, but ὕψωσε τὸν ὄφιν, gave it an elevation at which all might see it. So must the Son of Man, the bearer of heavenly light and healing, ὑψωθῆναι, that all may see Him. The “lifting up” of the Son of Man is interpreted in John 12:33 to mean His lifting up on the cross. It was this which drew human observation and human homage. The cross is the throne of Christ. In the phrase δεῖ ὑψωθῆναι the aorist is used in accordance with Greek usage by which an aorist infinitive is employed to express the action of the verb even though future after verbs signifying to hope, to expect, to promise, and such like. Thus Iph. in Aul., 462, οἶμαι γάρ νιν ἱκετεύσαι, where Markland needlessly changes the aorist into the future. Nicodemus could not see the significance with which these words were filled by the crucifixion. What would be suggested to him by the comparison of the Messiah with the brazen serpent might be something like this: The Son of Man is to be lifted up. Yes, but not on a throne in Herod’s palace. He was to be conspicuous, but as the brazen serpent had been conspicuous, hanging on a pole for the healing of the people. His elevation was certain, but it was an elevation by no mere official appointment, or popular recognition, or hereditary right, but by plumbing the depths of human degradation in truest self-sacrifice. There is no royal road to human excellence, and Jesus reached the height He attained by no blare of heralds’ trumpets or flaunting of banners or popular acclaim, but by being subjected to the keenest tests by which character can be searched, by passing through the ordeal of human life in this world, and by being found the best, the one only perfectly faithful servant of God and man.14. the serpent] We here have some evidence of the date of the Gospel. The Ophitic is the earliest Gnostic system of which we have full information. The serpent is the centre of the system, at once its good and evil principle. Had this form of Gnosticism been prevalent before this Gospel was written, this verse would scarcely have stood thus. An orthodox writer would have guarded his readers from error: an Ophitic writer would have made more of the serpent.

even so] Christ here testifies to the prophetic and typical character of the O.T.

must] It is so ordered in the counsels of God. Hebrews 2:9-10.

be lifted up] On the cross: the lifting up does not refer to the exaltation of Christ to glory. The glory to which the cross led (crux scala coeli) is not included. Comp. John 8:28 and John 12:32; and for other symbolic language about His death comp. Matthew 12:40.John 3:14. Καί, and) Often Christ, after mention of His glorification, made mention of His passion.—Μωσῆς, Moses) This is the first mention of Moses, which is read as made by our Lord.—τὸν ὄφιν, the serpent) As that serpent was a serpent without poison, to counteract the poisonous serpents: so the man Christ [was] a man without sin, to counteract the old serpent.—ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, in the wilderness) where there was no other medicine [remedy].—ὑψωθῆναι, be lifted up) on a cross towards heaven: ch. John 12:32, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me,” etc. [Not as yet did Jesus speak at this early time more distinctly as to His suffering on the cross: see John 3:16.—V. g.]—δεῖ, must) For it was for this purpose He descended from heaven.Verses 14, 15. - And. Seeing that our Lord had claimed supreme right to speak of heavenly things, he proceeds at once to speak of them also. There may be many ways of taking the καὶ: supposing that it indicates a transition from the person of the Lord to his work. From his Divine and endowed humanity thus shown to be competent to explain and re veal heavenly things, he proceeds to his atoning sacrifice. These underlying links of connection are not mutually exclusive. Even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must also the Son of man be lifted up. The narrative of Numbers 21:8, etc., is one of the most curious in Scripture, and it was a great puzzle to the Jewish commentators, who felt that it was in apparent violation of the second command of the Decalogue. Moreover, in the days of Hezekiah the reverence paid to the serpent led to disastrous consequences and puritanic removal of the idolatrous snare. The Jewish divines consulted by Trypho (see Justin Martyr, 'Dail.,' 94) were unable to explain it. Philo regarded it as a designed contrast to the serpent of the Book of Genesis, but he supposed the antithesis to be that between pleasure and righteousness or prudence ('De Leg. All.,' 2:1.80). The Book of Wisdom (Wisdom 16:6), "The murmuring people were troubled for a while for warning, having a symbol of salvation .... he that turned to it was saved, not by reason of that which he beheld, but by reason of the Saviour of all." Ferguson, in his 'Tree and Serpent Worship,' regards the narrative as an indication that within the bosom of Israel the worship of the serpent had been introduced and had left its traces. But the narrative itself shows that the serpent healing from the serpent bite was a Jehovistie symbol of Divine love and victory. The 'Test. XII. Patr. Benj.,' 9, refers to it as the type of the cross (cf. Philippians 2:9; Acts 2:33). "Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." The fiery flying serpent, with its poisonous bite and its deadly malice, was the vivid type of the evil of disobedience to the Divine command, infusing its malign venom into the whole nature of its victim. The serpent of brass was not venomous, though it bore the likeness of the deadly plague. It was not flying, gliding from tent to tent, but captured, still, hoisted triumphantly upon the pole, a sign of its conquest. The serpent in Hebrew and Christian literature throughout was emblematic of evil, not as in many Oriental religions, of healing or deliverance (see Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9; and, properly translated, Job 26:13, Revised Version); and it is possible to see in this type an anticipation of the "lifting up" of Jesus on the cross. There are several interpretations of the ὑψωθῆναι. Paulus urged that Jesus by it referred to the final glorification of himself; but if so, why was not the word δοξασθῆναι used? It may mean, with Bleek, Lechler, Godet, the exaltation upon the cross as the steppingstone to his glory, the way, not only to David's throne, but to the very throne of God - a conception profoundly different from the current Pharisaic notions concerning the Messiah. The word is used in John 8:28 and John 12:32, 34 for the passion of the cross, although Peter (Acts 2:33) and Paul (Philippians 2:9) used it for the glorification consequent upon the Passion. Surely the word does, if it is to correspond with Moses' exaltation of the serpent of brass, point to the exaltation of the cross, but to that as to the very throne of his power and glory. Tholuck says, "A word must have been used in Aramaic which admitted both ideas, and the word זְםקך means in Chaldee and Syriac to 'lift up' and 'crucify.'" Many striking relations thus present themselves.

(1) The Lord was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, though without sin.

(2) The evil of sin was seen in him conspicuously revealed, but conquered; not only conquered, but transformed into a remedy. The enemy of man, the world itself, was crucified on the cross of Christ. Sin was nailed to the cross when, in the likeness of sinful flesh, the eternal Son of God made flesh submitted to all the shame of the flesh. "The world is crucified unto me," says Paul ("in the cross of Christ"), "and I to the world." Jesus says, "Even so must the Son of man be lifted up." The Son of man here on earth, but having always a Divine life in heaven, when revealed in human nature, subject to the laws and destiny of the flesh, "must" be lifted up. This pathway to his glory must pass through the blood and agony of the Passion. There was a needs be in the Divine counsel, in the purposes of Divine love, in the fall measure of the grace which was welling from the heart of God.

(3) The comparison, however, and relation between type and antitype is more conspicuous still in the fifteenth verse, where Jesus added: In order that whosoever believeth might have in him eternal life. Granting that the above is the true text, in our translation an instance occurs of the frequent absolute usage of πιστεύειν (πιστεύειν ἐν αὐτῷ is not a Johannine phrase, while we do find (John 5:39; John 16:33; John 20:31) that "life," "peace," are "in him"). On this ground, if we retain the ἐν αὐτῷ, we translate it as above. The object of faith is not specified; but he who believes, who looks with God-taught longing to the Christ, to the Son of man uplifted to save, sees God at his greatest, his best, and discerns the fullest revelation of the redeeming love. "Believing" corresponds with "looking" in the narrative of Numbers 21. Whosoever "looked, lived." Such looking was an act of faith in the promise of Jehovah; the otherwise despairing, dying glance of poisoned men was a type of the possibility of a universal salvation for sin-envenomed, devil-bitten, perishing men. Let them believe, and there is life. Let them understand the meaning of the Son of man thus exhausting the curse, and enduring in love the burden and penalty of human transgression, and they have straightway a life that is spiritual, fundamentally and radically new, a life heavenly and eternal. Thus can this vast change of which he had spoken to Nicodemus supervene. "How," asks Nicodemus, "can this be?" "Thus may it be," answers the Son of man. It is not necessary that all the mystery of the cross should have been perceived by Nicodemus, yet the subsequent references to this man make it highly probable that, when he saw Jesus suspended on the cross, instead of giving way to unbelief and despair, he was stimulated to an act of lofty faith (John 19:39, and note). In this great utterance we have the answer which Paul addressed to the Philippian jailer, and we have the argument of Paul in Romans 1, 2, and we infer that the sources of the Pauline doctrine were to be found in the known teaching of the Lord himself. Many commentators, beginning with Erasmus, and followed by Neander, Tholuck, Lucke, Westcott, and Moulton, have supposed that our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus ended with ver. 15, and that thenceforward we have the reflections in after times made by the evangelist, in harmony with the teachings which he had received from the Lord. This is urged on the ground that in John 1:18, and at the close of the present chapter (vers. 31-36), when reciting the testimony of the Baptist, it appears to the commentators that John has blended his own reflections with the words of the Baptist, adding them without break to the sentences which he does record (see notes). I am not prepared to admit the analogy; there is nothing in these words, if attributed to the Baptist, incompatible with the purely Old Testament position and transition standpoint to which he adhered. The argument drawn from the past tenses, ἠγάπησεν and ἔδωκεν, is not incompatible with the large view of the whole transaction which the Son of God adopted, as though in the fulness of its infinite love it had already been consummated. We are told that there are certain phrases which nowhere else are ascribed to Jesus himself, such as "only begotten Son" - a term which is found in the prologue (John 1:14, 18) and First Epist. (1 John 4:9), i.e. in John's own composition. The reply is that John used this great word on the specified occasion because he had heard it on the lips of Jesus; that he would not have dared to use it if he had not had the justification of such use, the like to which he here recounts. The believing εἰς τὸ ὄνομά - "on the name of" - does not occur, it is said, in the recorded words of Jesus, though it is found in the discourse of the evangelist himself in ch. 1:12; 2:23; and 1 John 5:13. The same criticism applies. John used it because he had heard our Lord thus deign to express himself. Moreover, the commencement of the paragraph, by the use of the particle γὰρ, shows that no break has occurred, that a richer and fuller and more triumphant reason is to be given for the obtaining of life eternal than that which had already been advanced. He passes from the Son of man (who is in heaven, and came from heaven and God) to the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father. He speaks in more practical and explanatory form of the Object of faith, and the Divine source of the arrangement and its issues. A flood of new thoughts and some terms occur here for the first time; but they are no more startling than other words of Jesus, whose awful weight of meaning and rich originality gave to the evangelist all his power to teach. It is quite unnecessary to find fault with the abruptness of the close of this discourse, or the sudden cessation of the dialogue, or the disappearance of Nicodemus, or of any lack of affectionateness in the style of address. Christ is often abrupt, and in numerous replies which he gave to his interlocutors he prolongs the remarks as though they were addressed to the concealed mind of the speakers rather than to their uttered words. If there had been any hint or indication that these were John's reflections, we can only say that he who by the Holy Spirit penned the prologue was not incapable of these splendid and heart-searching generalizations of love, faith, judgment, and eternal life. But there does not appear to be any sufficient reason for such an hypothesis. Still, it must be admitted that we have not the whole of the former or the latter part of this wondrous discourse. Much has, without any doubt, been omitted. John has seized upon the most salient points and the loftiest thoughts. These stand out like mountain peaks above the glittering seas, indicating where the inner and hidden connections of their bases lie, but not unveiling them. We do not doubt that John's mind, by long pondering on the thoughts of Jesus and his words of profound significance, had acquired to some extent the method of his speech, and do not doubt that a certain subjective colouring affects his condensation of the discourses of Jesus. He was not a shorthand reporter, photographically or telephonically reproducing all that passed. He was a beloved disciple, who knew his Lord and lost himself in his Master. He seized with inspired and intuitive accuracy the root ideas of the Son of man, and reproduced them with the power of the true artist. It is incredible, even if we regard the entire paragraph (vers. 16-21) as the language of our Lord, that we have the whole of the discourse, or conversation, of the memorable night. Still less satisfactory is it to suppose that we have in it nothing more than an imaginary scone, an idealization of the bearing of Christian truth on Jewish prejudice. So vast a thought, though it be the burden of the New Testament, and because it is so, issued from the heart of Jesus. Must (δεῖ)

Must signifies the eternal necessity in the divine counsels. Compare Luke 24:26, Luke 24:46; Matthew 26:54; Mark 8:31; John 12:34.

Lifted up (ὑψωθῆναι)

The following are the uses of the word in the New Testament: The exaltation of pride (Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15; Luke 14:11). The raising of the humble (Luke 1:52; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). The exaltation of Christ in glory (Acts 2:33; Acts 5:31). The uplifting on the cross (John 3:14; John 8:28; John 12:32, John 12:34). The reference here is to the crucifixion, but beyond that, to the glorification of Christ. It is characteristic of John to blend the two ideas of Christ's passion and glory (John 8:28; John 12:32). Thus, when Judas went out to betray him, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of man glorified" (John 13:31). Hence the believer overcomes the world through faith in Him who came not by water only, but by water and blood (1 John 5:4-6).

John 3:14 Interlinear
John 3:14 Parallel Texts

John 3:14 NIV
John 3:14 NLT
John 3:14 ESV
John 3:14 NASB
John 3:14 KJV

John 3:14 Bible Apps
John 3:14 Parallel
John 3:14 Biblia Paralela
John 3:14 Chinese Bible
John 3:14 French Bible
John 3:14 German Bible

Bible Hub

John 3:13
Top of Page
Top of Page