It was on the forty year exodus of Israel in the wilderness, and as usual, they were complaining about something. But this time it got really bad, and they spoke against God and against Moses. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food” (Numbers 21:5). The Lord judged them by sending venomous snakes among them, and a number of them died. They saw their error and repented. God told Moses to make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole. Those who were bitten were to look at the snake, and they would be made well.
It was a story archived in the book of Numbers, and the history of Israel, who told each new generation what their ancestors had experienced. No doubt the Lord Jesus grew up with the story, and so did a man who had heard Him speak, and came to see Him at night. Nicodemus, the Pharisee.
Jesus said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was confused by this, once someone was born, how could that happen again. Jesus explained to him that it was a spiritual rebirth, not a physical one. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:6,7).
But how could he be born again?
To explain this, the Lord Jesus turned to the story from Israel in the Wilderness. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so much the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14,15). Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, and everyone who looked at it as God said to, had physical healing. When Jesus was lifted up on the cross, everyone who looked to Him believing, would be forgiven of their sins and live forever.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).