Lent Day 39 – Good Friday
“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.” John 3:13-15
The crucifixion of Jesus was foreshadowed in the time of Israel’s journey from Egypt while they wondered in the wilderness. In one of their times of rebellion against God, even after He had shown them such wonders providing supernaturally for their needs and given them a victory over their enemies (See Numbers 21), the people complained and spoke against God.
“And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.” Numbers 21:5-7
So, God instructed Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole. Then, whoever was bitten, when they looked up to the pole they would live. It was because of sin, their rebellion against God, that the serpents came into their camp bringing death. For the wages of sin is death. And no man escapes the judgment of the Almighty, All-Righteous God, especially, under the Old Covenant of sin and death.
Still, God’s purpose was not to kill them or to just let them die to prove He was God and He had the power to do it. Rather, it was His intent to show them by His mercy, that His desire was to give them life. But they had to first acknowledge their sin and come to a place of recognizing His sovereignty and the immutable righteousness of His Laws. His authority demanded their respect and obedience if they wanted to live and enjoy the blessings of the covenant. Murmuring, complaining and railing against God was not acceptable and would not be tolerated.
Even in this act of judgment, it was for their benefit and ours. The first commandment of the Law given to them in the wilderness was and is to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. All the blessings of the law operated through the agency of Love.
Love and sin were and are incompatible, because we as human beings cannot serve two masters. Israel could not serve both the law of death rooted in the sins of Egypt, and the law of the Love of God that leads to eternal life. They had to choose one or the other.
Moreover, the fiery serpent lifted up on a pole pointed in a figure to the crucifixion of the One through whose death would come life for every sinner once and for all. All the world in Adam was made subject to the sting of the serpent (See Genesis 3:14-15). Because of his cunning and deception we were all marked with sin.
So, Jesus knowing that His life was to be offered up in like manner as the serpent on the pole in the wilderness, said to His disciples, pointing to the day He would be nailed to the cross for our sins, “…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.”
Good Friday is always to me, a dichotomous designation for this day so filled with sorrow and mourning at the remembrance of our Savior’s suffering and death. But it is called Good Friday, because it marked the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation and the culmination of all the law and the prophets from Adam to Jesus.
This sacrifice of Jesus, made on this day, marked the beginning of the restoration of all creation, because while Jesus’ death was surely to redeem us, all mankind, from sin, it was also initiated the lifting of the curse over every living thing in all creation.
And there is yet a final day coming when Jesus returns and we see the final culmination of the old creation passing away and a New Jerusalem (Revelation 21) coming down from Heaven. And we are destined to be in the company of those with Christ as He comes to establish His Kingdom in that New City on the New Earth forever and ever.
This is the good message of Good Friday. All glory to God now and forever, Amen.