Why Jesus Had to Come

Read John 3:1-21

In a public place, at the most crowded time, in the most conspicuous way, Jesus announced His presence to Israel.

The Gospel of John, chapter 2, gives the story.

Jesus made a whip out of small cords and drove those selling cattle and sheep, along with people changing foreign currency, out of the temple grounds.

This act got the attention of the national leaders.  They demanded proof that Jesus had authority to do this thing.

However, one of the leaders, a man named Nicodemus, was curious.  So, one night after dark, he went to speak with Jesus.  

Nicodemus said, “Rabbi, we all know that God has sent you to teach us.  Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”  (John 3:2)[i]

He said, “. . . we all know.”

Here it is . . . evidence that the Jewish leaders who were demanding proof knew already that Jesus was from God.  

Of all the leaders, Nicodemus was the only one who came to find out why God sent Jesus.

Jesus starts by challenging Nicodemus to consider spiritual truth.  He uses the physical world to illustrate and talk about spiritual truth.  Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”   (John 3:3)  This statement baffles Nicodemus and Jesus explains that He is talking about a spiritual truth.

We know from Ephesians chapter 2 verse 1 that we were all once dead because of our disobedience and many sins.  This death is clearly spiritual.  Because of sin, we are born spiritually dead, separated from God.  Jesus is pointing out to Nicodemus that this is why He had to come.  This death due to sin needed to be fixed, and this necessitated a rebirth.

Nicodemus was incredulous.  “How are these things possible?”  He asked.  (John 3:9)

Jesus chided Nicodemus for being a respected Jewish leader and religious teacher and yet being unable to understand this most basic of spiritual truths. Then Jesus says this most interesting thing.  “If you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”  (John 3:12)

Contained in this statement is more spiritual truth about why Jesus had to come.  He explains, “No one has ever gone to heaven and returned.  But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.”  (v. 13) Jesus is drawing a picture of our lost condition.  Not only are we spiritually dead, but we cannot even begin to understand God and heaven.  From the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, we know that God has given plenty of evidence of His existence and even of His Divine attributes.  However, who can explain Him?  Jesus shows that we cannot understand or even see God.  Without Jesus, we are lost.

To explain this, Jesus uses the example of people bitten by a poisonous snake; without help they are certain to die.  This is a picture of how lost we are.   

The example Jesus uses is from the Old Testament.  God used Moses to lead the nation of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt.  Numbers 21 tells us:
4Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom.  But the people grew impatient with the long journey, 5and they began to speak against God and Moses.  “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained.  “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink.  And we hate this horrible manna!”

6So the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died.  7Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you.  Pray that the LORD will take away the snakes.”  So Moses prayed for the people.

8Then the LORD told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole.  All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!”  9So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole.  Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!

This was a picture of what Jesus came to do.  Humanity is spiritually dead because the snake in the garden deceived it.  Those bitten by the snake in Moses’s time had the option to go ahead and die, or to look at the bronze replica and live.  We also have the same option.  We can remain dead in our disobedience and many sins or we can look to Jesus and live.  

There was no power in the physical replica of the snake.  There is no power in the physical replica of a cross.  It will not stop or burn vampires, nor will it ward off evil spirits, disease, sickness or problems.  The power of looking at the replica of the snake was belief, belief that God could and would save.  The power of looking to the cross is the same.  The power is Jesus Himself.  

In using the example of the snake on a pole, Jesus is showing that He knows exactly what kind of death He is going to die.

This is part of what makes John 3:16 so precious.  It says, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

This is a spiritual truth.  Jesus explains it using the physical example of the snake on a pole.  There was no physical merit in looking at the snake on a pole.  In other words, there are no anti-venom properties associated with looking at replicas of snakes.  In the same way, there are no anti-sin properties associated with religious practice.  The only hope is to look to Jesus.  Jesus uses the word, “believe.”  

Jesus anticipates a problem that Nicodemus might be having.  

The Law that God gave through Moses, condemned everyone.  There were stiff penalties for breaking the Law, and Nicodemus would have understood that He had not kept the Law perfectly.  In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman believers, he explains that by conscience and the law we all know that we deserve condemnation or judgment.

Therefore, Jesus explains in verse 17 and following that God did not send Him to judge or condemn, but to save.

On the cross, Jesus paid the price for all sin for all time.  There is no sin too great or too small.  Jesus paid it all.

However, this creates a difficulty.  Jesus explains it like this, “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.  But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”  (v. 18)

God loved the world so much that He gave His One and Only Son, and in verse 18, we see the consequences of rejecting that gift.

Why would anyone reject such a gift?  It seems hard to believe that such a loving and kind gift from heaven would be rejected.

Jesus explained to Nicodemus our spiritual condition and why Jesus had to come.  He explained how belief works by simply believing and looking to God for eternal life.  It is a spiritual transaction, which we cannot fully understand.  Jesus uses earthly illustrations here to explain heavenly truths that are beyond our ability to understand.

He ends His lesson for Nicodemus by explaining why people reject this gift.  This is especially significant for Nicodemus because he is a member of the ruling council of Jewish leaders who were starting down the road to crucifying Jesus.

Jesus says:
19And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  20All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.  21But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

I might be too simplistic, but I believe that this gives the one and only reason that anyone rejects Jesus.

This does not mean that my neighbor who does not believe in Jesus is any worse than I am.  The snake called sin has bitten us all.  Therefore, the only hope for any of us is to look to the One who was lifted up on a cross.



[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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