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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels

Chapter 58 - John 3:14, 15 - Life in Looking to Jesus Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius




Life In Looking To Jesus.


     "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."-John 3:14, 15.



     Let us here first read the history, and then mark the symbol.

     The narrative begins with Israel's sin. It is the old sin of murmuring; distrust; dislike of God's provision; discontent with his dealings; preference of Egypt to the prospect of Canaan; disbelief of God's love, and denial of his faithfulness. And all this at the close of their forty years' desert sojourn! Forty years of the manna, of the water, of the pillar-cloud, and of all the love which these imply, had left them still the same!

The narrative proceeds with Israel's punishment. It was death; death from the hand of the Lord; a death of agony; a death by poison and fire; death by the instrumentality of serpents, which would not fail to remind them of the serpent of Paradise, by which our first parents were poisoned. The punishment was so ordered as to be the means of symbolizing the remedy. Out of their destroyers the symbol of health is constructed. The image of destruction becomes the emblem of health and deliverance.

     The remedy was simple, complete, divine. The image of their destroyers in brass, lifted up on a banner-pole, so as to be visible to all. Thus sin, punishment, and remedy were all brought into view at once. They were reminded of their sin; they read their punishment; they received the cure.

     The application of the cure was as simple as the cure itself. They had no hand in it; nothing to pay for it; nothing to do; no distance to walk; no effort to put forth. The cure was wholly of God; its power was resistless; no strength of disease could withstand it; however near death they might be, it mattered not. They looked and were cured.

     Let us now mark the symbol. "All these happened unto them for ensamples." It is this ensample, or type, or emblem that our Lord here indicates; it is this that we are to read.

     The sin in both cases is much the same; rebellion against God; unbelief; distrust; making God a liar; refusal to believe His word, or to receive His love. Of this sin the punishment is death; death by the hand of him that has the power of death, the old serpent, the devil; certain, agonizing, burning death; the fire that is never quenched; the everlasting burnings; our veins filled with deadly poison, and every part racked with pain. The sin is not the less hateful for being unfelt; the punishment not the less deadly, because we may be insensible to its deadliness.

     Let us now mark the manner of the cure.

     I. Christ made sin for us. The deliverer takes the likeness of the destroyer. The Son of God not merely becomes the Son of man, but He assumes the likeness of sinful flesh. Not sinful flesh, nor a sinful nature; but still flesh,-very flesh; very manhood,-manhood under the curse, in its weakness, frailty, and mortality. Moses was not commanded to take an actual serpent, a dead serpent, and hang it on the pole; that would have implied that Christ was actually sinful; but he is to do the nearest thing to this, to make the image of a serpent, formed out of brass,-such brass as the brazen altar and brazen layer were made of. Thus, as Christ was represented by the emblem of a goat on the day of atonement,-a goat, the figure of the wicked on the left of the Judge,-so is He here represented by a brazen serpent; "made a curse," "made sin for us." Thus on the cross, we see at once our condemnation and our pardon, our sickness and our cure, our destroyer and our deliverer. We see Christ carrying up to the cross our sin, our punishment, our enemy, and nailing them all to that cross along with Himself. God inflicts death on Him as if He were the sinner, as if He were man's enemy, as if He were the cursed one.

     II. Christ lifted up. The lifting up of the serpent on a pole was necessary for Israel's cure; so the lifting up of Christ on the cross was for ours. He was lifted up,

     (1.) As a sacrifice. He was laid on the altar. The cross was the altar on which the Lamb of God was placed.

     (2.) As a criminal. It was a cursed place: "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." There He hung as a malefactor, the Just for the unjust!

     (3.) As an object visible to all. The serpent was lifted up that Israel might see it; so Christ was lifted up that all men might see Him; that He might be the most visible object in creation.

     III. Christ giving life. He hangs in the place of death, yet thence He gives life. He delivers from death by dying. Life streams out, like rivers of water, from that center, the cross. The cross is the tree of life. There He hangs,-the life-giving One; the healing One; the attractive One; the loving One. "Look unto Me," is the voice coming from Him there. We are healed, not by working, or praying, or striving, but looking. Israel's physicians could do nothing; the look at the serpent did it all. So it is in looking that the cure comes to us. There is health, there is life at the cross. We get them simply in looking; all may look. "Whosoever," is the wide message,-"whosoever believeth,"-hath eternal life.