And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
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.
First, Jesus declares that He is, indeed, the Son of man; that He came from heaven, and that He will return to heaven.
Second, He reminds Nicodemus of the story of the plague of “fiery serpents” during their trek through the wilderness. They had sinned against God–again–and God had sent the serpents to bring them to repentance. One bite, and the victim would die. The only thing that could save them was to look at the bronze serpent on the pole that Moses had lifted up in obedience to God’s directions (Numbers 21:9).
In the same way, Jesus had been nailed to a cross, and then lifted up for all men to see. Did they know that what was happening was a fulfillment of prophecy? I believe some did. I believe that there were those in the crowd, gazing at the suffering Man on that cross, were reminded of the story in the scriptures, and realized that this was indeed the Son of God. To look on Him, to believe in Him, was to find eternal life.
Another application here, of course, is that we must lift Him up. We who believe in Him and love Him have the responsibility to share Him with unbelievers we come into contact with.
How do we lift Him up? We tell His story. We live a sanctified, separated life, leaving our old lives behind because we have been regenerated, changed from the inside out. Our lives should be a testimony of His love.
To look upon Him at Calvary, to believe He was not just another crucified Jew who rebelled against Rome, but that He was the Son of God, is to live forever in heaven with Him.
Moses’ serpent represented healing and life, a prophecy of the Son of God Who IS healing from sin, and the giver of life everlasting.