Nicodemus, bound by his reasoning skills, cannot understand what Jesus is saying to him. He inadequately grapples with a heavenly concept using earthly understanding. Therefore, Jesus gives him more insight and further instructs him by reminding him of a story from the history of his people. Jesus reveals to Nicodemus where He is from, reminds him of when Moses lifted up the serpent and defines His purpose.
Where Jesus is From
Jesus speaks in the plural when He tells Nicodemus that we talk about the things we know, the things we have seen and heard. God speaks here through His Son and questions him. If you can’t understand about earthly things how will you ever understand heavenly things? No one has ever gone up to heaven Nicodemus, only the Son of Man who has come down. I am from heaven Nicodemus, can’t you see it? To further explain Jesus reminds him of a story from the history of his own people.
Moses Lifted Up the Serpent
In Numbers 21:4-9 we find the story Jesus used with Nicodemus. The Israelites had crossed the Red Sea and God was leading them. Discouraged by lack of food and water, they began to grumble against God and Moses. Therefore, God sent fiery serpents which bit many, resulting in many deaths. The people realized their sin and repented asking Moses to intercede for them. As Moses prayed, God instructed him to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. If anyone got bit and looked to the bronze serpent they would live.
From this illustration Jesus showed Nicodemus why He had come down from heaven. I have to be lifted up. Mankind need to look to me, to believe in me, to be rescued from their sin induced death, the bite of the serpent. When they look to Me they will not perish but will have eternal life. Jesus was speaking prophetically of His death on the cross. John again refers to this when he records Jesus saying, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” and John clarifies that Jesus said this to signify how He would die. It reminds me of an old hymn ‘Look and Live, my brother live. Look to Jesus now and live.’ Jesus reveals to Nicodemus where He is from, reminds him of when Moses lifted up the serpent and defines His purpose.