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John 3:14

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

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.

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

As Moses lifted up - He shows the reason why he descended from heaven, that he might be lifted up, i.e. crucified, for the salvation of man. kind, and be, by the appointment of God, as certain a remedy for sinful souls as the brazen serpent elevated on a pole, Numbers 21:9, was for the bodies of the Israelites, which had been bitten by the fiery serpents in the wilderness. It does not appear to me that the brazen serpent was ever intended to be considered as a type of Christ. It is possible to draw likenesses and resemblances out of any thing; but, in such matters as these, we should take heed that we go no farther than we can say, Thus it is written. Among the Jews, the brazen serpent was considered a type of the resurrection - through it the dying lived; and so, by the voice of God, they that were dead shall be raised to life. As the serpent was raised up, so shall Christ be lifted up: as they who were stung by the fiery serpents were restored by looking up to the brazen serpent, so those who are infected with and dying through sin are healed and saved, by looking up to and believing in Christ crucified. These are all the analogies which we can legitimately trace between the lifting up of the brazen serpent, and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The lifting up of the Son of man may refer to his mediatorial office at the right hand of God. See the note on Numbers 21:9.

Ellen G. White
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4a, 42-3

The Israelites were terrified, and humbled because of the serpents, and confessed their sin in murmuring. Moses was directed to erect the brazen serpent upon a pole, and if those who were bitten looked upon that they should be healed. Here the Israelites were required to do something. They must look upon the brazen serpent if they would live. Many had died by the bite of the serpents. When Moses raised the serpent upon the pole, some had no faith that merely looking at that would heal them, and they died. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, were all anxiously engaged in helping their suffering, dying relatives and friends, to fix their languid eyes upon the serpent. If they could only once look while fainting and dying, they revived and were healed of all the effects of their poisonous wounds. There was no virtue in the serpent of brass to cause such a change immediately in those who looked upon it. The healing virtue received by their looking upon the serpent was derived from God alone. He chose in his wisdom this manner to display his power. It was the faith of the people in the provision made which was acceptable to God. By this simple means the people were made sensible that God had permitted these serpents to afflict them, because of their murmurings, and lack of faith in him. If they would obey God they had no reason to fear, for he would be their friend, and preserve them from dangers to which they were continually exposed in the wilderness. 4aSG 42.1

The brazen serpent, lifted upon a pole, illustrates the Son of God, who was to die upon the cross. The people who are suffering from the effects of sin can find hope and salvation alone in the provision God has made. As the Israelites saved their lives by looking upon the brazen serpent, so sinners can look to Christ and live. Unlike the brazen serpent, he has virtue in himself and power to heal the suffering, repenting, believing sinner. Christ says of himself, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” 4aSG 42.2

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Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 69.1

Here is another case Christ presented before Nicodemus—the serpent that was lifted up in the wilderness—and declared, “Even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). And if He is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Him, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Verse 15). Now just look at that brazen serpent. The children of Israel had not realized that God had been keeping them by His angels sent to be their help and their protection. The people had not been destroyed by the serpents in their long travels through the wilderness. They had been an ungrateful people. FW 69.1

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Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 70

What kind of faith is that? Is it to believe simply, or is it a faith of admission? There are many here who have that kind of faith. You believe that Jesus was the Son of God; but do you have a personal faith in regard to your own salvation? Do you believe that Jesus is your Saviour? that He died on Calvary's cross to redeem you? that He has offered you the gift of everlasting life if you believe on Him? FW 70.1

And what is it to believe? It is to fully accept that Jesus Christ died as our sacrifice; that He became the curse for us, took our sins upon Himself, and imputed unto us His own righteousness. Therefore we claim this righteousness of Christ, we believe it, and it is our righteousness. He is our Saviour. He saves us because He said He would. Are we going to go into all the explanations as to how He can save us? Do we have the goodness in ourselves that will make us better and cleanse us from the spots and stains of sin, enabling us then to come to God? We simply cannot do it. FW 70.2

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Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 63.2

If there is nothing more in all the Scriptures which point out definitely the way to heaven, we have it here in these words. They tell us what conversion is. They tell us what we must do in order to be saved. And, my friends, I want to tell you that this strikes directly at the root of the surface work in the religious world. It strikes directly against the idea that you can become a child of God without any particular change. There is a decided change wrought in us if the truth of God has found a place in our hearts, for it has a sanctifying power upon life and upon character. When we see the fruits of righteousness in those who claim to have advanced truth, as we claim to have it, then there will be a course of action which testifies that we have learned of Christ. FW 63.2

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 485

As the close of His ministry drew near, there was a change in Christ's manner of labor. Heretofore He had sought to shun excitement and publicity. He had refused the homage of the people, and had passed quickly from place to place when the popular enthusiasm in His favor seemed kindling beyond control. Again and again He had commanded that none should declare Him to be the Christ. DA 485.1

At the time of the Feast of Tabernacles His journey to Jerusalem was made swiftly and secretly. When urged by His brothers to present Himself publicly as the Messiah, His answer was, “My time is not yet come.” John 7:6. He made His way to Jerusalem unobserved, and entered the city unannounced, and unhonored by the multitude. But not so with His last journey. He had left Jerusalem for a season because of the malice of the priests and rabbis. But He now set out to return, traveling in the most public manner, by a circuitous route, and preceded by such an announcement of His coming as He had never made before. He was going forward to the scene of His great sacrifice, and to this the attention of the people must be directed. DA 485.2

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” John 3:14. As the eyes of all Israel had been directed to the uplifted serpent, the symbol appointed for their healing, so all eyes must be drawn to Christ, the sacrifice that brought salvation to the lost world. DA 485.3

It was a false conception of the Messiah's work, and a lack of faith in the divine character of Jesus, that had led His brothers to urge Him to present Himself publicly to the people at the Feast of Tabernacles. Now, in a spirit akin to this, the disciples would have prevented Him from making the journey to Jerusalem. They remembered His words concerning what was to befall Him there, they knew the deadly hostility of the religious leaders, and they would fain have dissuaded their Master from going thither. DA 485.4

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 226

“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. AA 226.1

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken.” Isaiah 53:1-8. AA 226.2

Even the manner of His death had been shadowed forth. As the brazen serpent had been uplifted in the wilderness, so was the coming Redeemer to be lifted up, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. AA 226.3

“One shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in Thine hands? Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends.” Zechariah 13:6. AA 226.4

“He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief.” Isaiah 53:9, 10. AA 226.5

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