Sermons from the Gospel According to John | Son and Salvation | John 3:14-15

Son and Salvation (John 3:14-15)

I hate heights, so I don’t ride rollercoasters. However, I made an exception to that rule when I was about 9 years-old. Mom and Dad had taken us three boys to the Kings Island amusement park in Ohio. And, for some reason I no longer remember, I decided to ride The Beast with my mother. The Beast is the world’s longest wooden rollercoaster; it stands 110 feet tall and and speeds down the track at over 60 miles per hour.

Mom had the time of her life when she and I rode The Beast. When we got to the top of the rise and prepared for our descent, I became terrified. I reached for my safety harness and tried to undo it because I was getting off that thing; there was no way on God’s earth I was going down. But I did! Mom had to hold me the entire ride while I screamed, “Let me off! Let me off!” Four minutes or so later, my ride of terror ended. I have not ridden a rollercoaster since.

How do you feel about heights? How many of you were nervous the first time you flew? Did any of you get queasy when you visited the Grand Canyon? Maybe you went to some other tourist attraction—the Eiffel Tower or the Space Needle or the Gateway Arch—and got nervous. How many of you get nervous when you see someone walking a tightrope at the circus or on TV?

Well, Jesus told Nicodemus that the Son of Man was going to new heights. Jesus wouldn’t be riding a rollercoaster; he would be lifted up on the cross and then lifted up to heaven. This morning, I wish you to understand why Jesus was lifted up: “Jesus was lifted up for your salvation.

Scripture (John 3:14-15)

verse 14:

In the wilderness, the Israelites became impatient and “spoke against God and against Moses” (Num 21:5). Because of the murmuring, God “sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died” (Num 21:6). The people asked Moses to pray for them, and God told Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole” so that anyone who was bitten could look at it and live (Num 21:8). Moses made a bronze serpent, and those bitten looked at that serpent and lived (Num 21:9).

The Israelites had to look at their punishment head-on to live. God punished their murmuring with serpents, and the only way they could survive the snake’s venom was to look straight at an image of what had just tried to kill them.

When you look at the cross, you see your punishment. “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5). “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24). All Jesus’s shame and humiliation at the cross, each blow of the whip, all the pain from the nails as nerves were severed was your punishment. As Jesus was lifted up, you, like the Israelites before you, see your own punishment.

But Jesus wasn’t just lifted up on the cross; he was lifted up from the grave and exalted to God’s right hand. “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted” (Is 52:13). “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Phil 2:9). “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3).

verse 15:

Because Jesus was lifted up, “whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus said three significant things in that verse:

One: “Whoever.”

God would no longer have a chosen people based on descent from one man; whoever believes in Jesus—whether they be white or black or Hispanic or Republican or Democrat or rich or poor or conservative or liberal—may come. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

Two: “Believes.”

Some folks say you simply need to know in your heart that Jesus exists and died for your sins for salvation. That’s a great misjustice to Jesus’s words to Nicodemus, because “believes” in this context really means “trusts.” Think about Abraham’s faith—his trust—when he sacrificed Isaac. God had said something which didn’t make a lick of sense; however, Abraham trusted God to do the right thing: “He considered that God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb 11:19). Abraham’s trust caused him to obey; when you truly trust someone, it’s easy to follow his instructions.

Three: “Eternal Life.”

Jesus had just told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again, and the Jewish ruler said, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (Jn 3:4). Nicodemus focused on the physical; Jesus pushed him to look at that eternal. The life Jesus offered Nicodemus—and the life he offers you—isn’t from your mother’s womb until death; it is eternal.


Jesus was lifted up for your salvation.” You, therefore, need two things:

One: Contemplation.

Just like the Israelites in the wilderness looked at the bronze serpent, you need to Contemplate the cross and see your punishment.

This week, read the four Gospels describe the Passion of your Lord. See the agony in the Garden as he prayed; see the sweat as it ran down as great drops of blood. See that kiss of betrayal from a close friend. See the soldiers strip him of his own clothes and clothe him in that purple robe; see them put a scepter in his hand as they bowed down in mock worship. See those soldiers smash a crown of thorns on his head. See the soldiers blindfold Jesus and hit him upside the head. See him lashed with whips again and again and again. See him struggle under the weight of his cross on his way to Golgotha. See nails pierce Jesus’s hands and feet. See him lifted high for all the world to see as though he were a criminal. See him struggle for every single breath. And understand all that was what you deserved.

But don’t stop there. Keep reading. Read how he rose from that grave in victory over sin and death and Satan himself. Stand with the disciples and watch him ascend into the clouds. See him take his place at the right hand of the Majesty on high. And know he has been lifted above every name!

Two: Confidence.

Jesus said that whoever believed in him would have eternal life. Proper faith puts Confidence in Jesus, believes his every word, and places your entire life into his hands.

You’re like Enoch who put his Confidence in God and never tasted death. You’re like Abraham who put his Confidence in God and left Ur. You’re like Moses’ parents who put their Confidence in God and hid their infant son. You’re like Moses who put his Confidence in God and told Pharaoh to let God’s people go. You’re like the Israelites who put their Confidence in God and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground.

Faith believes God exists and that Jesus is his Son, but it doesn’t stop there. Proper faith puts all one’s Confidence and hope and life into Jesus. If people honestly had the right Confidence in Jesus, like Jesus told Nicodemus people needed to have, preachers wouldn’t need to mention obedience. Obedience would be as natural as breathing. You cannot separate proper faith in Jesus and obedience, because proper faith trusts Jesus and does what he commanded. You see, with proper faith Jesus has every bit of your life.

How much does Jesus have of you this morning?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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