I our passage today we see that for third straight section John points out ways that Jesus fulfills and surpasses Judaism: in 2:1-11 Jesus provides new wine that vastly surpasses anything that contemporary Judaism could afford, and renders obsolete the stone jars of purification; in 2:12-25, Jesus displaces the temple and thereby intimates that the temple’s proper roles is best seen as an anticipation of the ultimate point of mediation between God and man; and last week and this week we see that Jesus fulfills prophecies of a water and spirit regeneration, and proves in his death to be the ultimate antitype of the snake lifted up in the desert.
Today our passage holds one of the most familiar verses of the Bible, but it is important to not go straight to that verse and assume that we know everything that we need to know about the context of this passage. That is why although our passage today is verses 14-21, we are going to start by reading from Numbers 21 and Isaiah 52:13. In verses 14 and 15 John is setting up what he is about to say by reminding us of an Old Testament story. So let us look at this passage so that we can fully understand what is going on in verse 16 and following.
Numbers 21 verses 4 through 9 is where we get this story. Here we are reminded that we too like the Israelites, we too become impatient, we too grow spoiled of God’s provision for us. We too are sinners that deserve to be punished just like the Israelites here where punished with fiery snakes. But because God loved them, God provided a way for them to escape his wrath. We too need to rescued from the wrath of God, and just like the bronze serpent that was raised on a pole, so was Jesus Christ. The bronze serpent was to be a sign for what will come to be later on. Just like how they looked up at the fiery serpent and were saved, now all those that look unto the Cross, repent, and believe will be saved from their affliction.
The Israelites were bitten and were bound for death by a literal snake, and it took one to be raised on a pole to save all those that have been bitten. We all have been bit by a fiery snake called sin and are bound for death, but by the raising up of one that did not sin we all will be saved who look unto Him for salvation.
God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes so many people, but because the world is so bad. A Holy and just God sent His one and only perfect son into the world to be crushed for a sinful world. God so loves the world that it looks like He hates his Son in comparison of His love to the world.
Verse 18 shows us that denial of Christ is not what is sending these people to Hell, for they were condemned already. We all were condemned to Hell and were dead to our sins, and it took the action of someone that was perfect to be sacrificed for us.
Now to make sure we get this passage let me ask you this question. What about the man in India that has never heard of the name of Jesus, will he go to Hell if he never had the chance of hearing the Gospel?
Yes, because Jesus did not come into the world to condemn, we were already condemned. If this is not true then why would we evangelize? If the denial of Christ is what sends you to Hell then it would be better to never to tell them. We would have to start our evangelism off by saying have you ever heard of a man named Jesus, and if they said no we would be better off telling them that if any tries to tell them to run away covering their ears.
However, it because this is true is the reason we have to go tell everyone on the planet about Jesus because if we do not tell them then they will perish in Hell forever, without ever having a chance to accept Christ. That is why you have to share the Gospel with your family, friends, and even your enemies.
Now how you answer this next question will reveal a lot about how you view God. Is it “fair” that men and women in India and all across the globe are going to Hell because they have never heard the Gospel? Well, let me ask you this, if you were watching a high profile case on TV in which a powerful leader was on trial because he abused his power to commit adultery with a married woman and to have her husband murdered so that he could have her all to himself. Well, now how would you feel if they judged ruled him innocent even though all doubt had been erased if he was guilty or not? You would be outraged right? However, this is exactly what we see with King David, a man that God calls, a man after his own heart. It is his line that Jesus will come out of. Is this fair, that a guilty man go free? No, but we do not want fair.
It is fair for the man in remote India to go to Hell because he has never heard the gospel because it would be fair for all of us to go to Hell because of all our sins. You might say well I have never committed adultery nor have I had someone murdered. However, we are worse than David because Jesus standard is much higher than man’s law. Jesus tells us that if we have ever lusted then we have already committed adultery, and if we have ever hated our brother then we have already committed murder in our hearts. Therefore, it is not fair for any of us to go to heaven and to have relationship with the almighty God. We do not want fair! It is because of His mercy and grace that allows us despite our fallen nature to be able to have a relationship with him.
Remember that Grace is the receiving of a Gift that we do not deserve, and mercy is the withholding of something that we do deserve. Therefore, by grace alone we are saved for those that have repented and believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord, Savior, and Treasure.
Now as we close this section of scripture, let us look at verses 19-21. The purpose of these verses is not to encourage readers to think they fall into a deterministic category bound up like robots, but to make them see the nearness of their danger, and the fundamentally moral reasons why people hate the light. John stresses these points in the hope that his readers will beg God that all they do may be done through him – in short, that they will turn to the lifted up Son of Man with the same simple, desperate, unqualified faith as the Israelites displayed who turned to the bronze snake in the dessert. By such faith and such faith alone can anyone experience the new birth and thereby gain eternal life.