Sermon series: Jesus' Life and Ministry

  1. Sermon: God's Great Mystery Revealed

  2. Sermon: The Rival and Real Kingdoms

  3. Sermon: The Prophet, Priest, and King of Miracles

  4. Sermon: Snakebite: The Judgment of Sin and the Cross of Christ

  5. Sermon: The Resurrection Changes Everything

Scriptures: Numbers 21:4-9, John 3:14-15

Connection to unit theme

Jesus is the suffering Messiah, the sacrificial Lamb, and the self-giving King. In this passage, Jesus overcomes the curse of death by the power of His self-sacrifice.

Introduction idea

Could you imagine living in a country during an epidemic that killed at least one-third of the population? This didn't just happen to one nation, but an entire continent. In the 14th century, the Black (Bubonic) Plague swept across Europe killing an estimated 75 million people. Some historians believe this may have totaled up to two-thirds of the population. It is said that sailing ships would run aground with all the crew dead because the Plague wiped out everyone on board.

If that situation sounds bad, we are all actually in a worse one. We just may not be aware of it. We are all infected with a deadly disease that will ultimately take our lives. This disease is called sin. This pandemic will not only claim our physical lives, but will also doom us in eternity if we don't receive the cure. This passage provides a clear picture of the disease we're all struggling with, and the remedy to ultimately cure the disease.

I. God judges all sin with death (Num. 21:4-9)

As the nation of Israel traveled through the wilderness during their exodus from Egypt, they became impatient and lashed out at God and Moses. "Why has God brought us out into the wilderness to die when He told us He was going to save us? What kind of a God doesn't give His children food or water?" They were tired, sore, and furious. Because of their complaining, God judged them by sending fiery serpents that bit the people, killing many (21:6). The text also says that the snakes are fiery serpents. Historians are not quite sure what this means. Fiery is often a term used in biblical language for the judgment of God, but it could also be a type of snake that might have the capabilities of an ancient "fire-breathing dragon." No matter what, it was a bad day for Israel.

The people finally humbled themselves before God. They asked Moses to intervene for them. So Moses prayed, and God replied with some unusual instructions. God told Moses to make a serpent and set it on a pole. Whoever looked to the serpent would live.

Application: Does God's punishment in this passage seem unfair drastic? Adam and Eve took fruit that God forbade them to eat. By doing so, the whole world fell into sin. Might God have overreacted? Sin is not just doing something bad, but disobeying and disbelieving our Creator-God. Sin isn't just about what we do, but Whom we do it against. Adam and Even believed and obeyed Satan instead of God. The Israelites doubted God's goodness. What about your sin? Do you trivialize it, minimize it, or excuse it?

II. God cures all sin with the gospel (John 3:14-15)

Jesus told Nicodemus, "And 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" (John 3:14-15). God healed the Israelites of serpent-venom as they looked at the bronze serpent on the pole. In the same way, if we believe in the death of Christ as He was lifted up on the cross for our sin, we will be spiritually healed from the disease of death. Jesus literally became the curse for us (Gal 3:13). We believe in His life, death, and resurrection for our salvation. We look to Him, we follow Him as our Lord, and God saves us! The serpent story points us to the cross.

Application: If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, please know that the only way to deal with your guilt, get rid of your shame, and be forgiven of all your wrongdoing is through the gospel. God has done all the work. We simply look to Jesus Who died for all of our sin, Who has risen from death, and Who now reigns as King. We turn from our wretched sin in repentance, and turn to our Lord Jesus in faith. If you are already are a believer but are losing a battle against sin, looking to Jesus is still the only way out. Pursue Jesus on a daily basis so that He becomes all the more compelling and sin becomes less appealing. The same way that we are saved from our sin is also the way we are sanctified despite our sin: the gospel. Grow deeply in the good news. Pray in its strength. Live according to its truth.

Conclusion idea

In the year 1666, the Great Fire of London wiped out the homes of 70,000 citizens. It is said that the fire's blaze was so hot that it incinerated everything - even on the outskirts of the city. Nothing remained that was recognizable. This fire is believed to have stopped the Black Plague, which lasted around 300 years, by killing off the diseased fleas, rats, and people that carried the plague. It took a greater death of fire to stop the death of the disease.

It has taken the greater death of Jesus Christ to overcome the death of sin. You will continue to struggle with sin, but the power of the cross of Jesus is far greater than the power of sin itself.

Chip Dean is student pastor at Capshaw Baptist Church, Harvest, Alabama. He holds a Master's Degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.