IN chapter 3 of John’s Gospel, Jesus is visited in the dark of night by a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who has seen and heard about Jesus, and knows that He is “from God.”

Jesus tells him, as many of us have heard all our lives, that he must be “born again”. And Nicodemus says to him: “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

To help him understand, Jesus uses an example from the Torah. He says: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” is a reference to Numbers 21, where there were serpents among the children of Israel in the wilderness, and people were being bitten and the poison led to death.

But God didn’t get rid of the snakes. Rather, He provided a way to live, even in the midst of them. God told Moses to make a serpent of bronze, and to lift up that snake on a stick, so that those who looked at it did not perish.

So Jesus was saying that just as that snake was lifted up, so He would be lifted up on the cross, and lifted up in resurrection. He was also saying that just like that snake, He would save those who looked to Him from poison and death.

Just like He did with those snakes in the Book of Numbers, God does not remove the danger of sin, nor the presence of sin around us, but provides an antidote that eliminates the power of sin.

That antidote is the one who is lifted up, the crucified and resurrected Jesus, who has the power to reverse the poison of sin.

Like that “snake on a stick” in the wilderness, Jesus was not sent to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

And it’s worth noting that if God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world, then he certainly doesn’t need us to. Our job is simply to point to the one who is lifted up, that others might find life everlasting.