Vol 5:9 (Sept 1959)
Lifted Up— No Bone Broken
“Even so must the Son of man be lifted up —” (John 3:14).
“But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs … that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken” (John 19:33 - 36).
The minute perfections of the Word of God should be our constant amazement were we more constant in reading it and meditating on what we read. Here is one example of its beauty. The very Gospel which tells us of the Son of Man being lifted up, even as was the serpent in the wilderness, is the one which assures us that, despite the prevailing plea of the Jews to Pilate that the legs of the three who were crucified be broken to hasten their end that the sabbath might not be desecrated, no bone of Him was broken.
The children of Israel, murmuring in the wilderness against God and against Moses, were bitten by fiery serpents and many died from the bites. When they acknowledged to Moses their sin, he prayed to God for them and was instructed to make a serpent, an image of the reptile which had bitten them, and put it on a pole. Whoever had been bitten and looked on the serpent was healed. Moses fashioned a serpent of brass, and those poisoned Israelites who looked on it lived.
Declaring to Nicodemus the profound gospel in the simplest terms, our Lord Jesus Christ said, “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.” Nicodemus looked, and as is evidenced in John 19, he lived.
Turning away from God after they were settled in the promised land, the Israelites became idolators, worshipping the work of their own hands and other objects. When Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah some seven hundred years after the wilderness wanderings, he found the people burning incense to the brazen serpent which Moses had made. In his wisdom, Hezekiah called it just what it was, “Nehushtan”, a piece of brass, utterly powerless to help, as it had been utterly powerless to harm. And he broke it in pieces.
The serpent of brass had served its occasion. There had never been an iota of power or virtue in it. It was not intended for more than the one purpose when, at the direction of God, it was used as an object to focus the eyes of Israel on Him Who could not only send fiery serpents to cause death because of sin, but Who could also heal the bitten through a look at a lifeless object made by one of God’s creatures. Probably after that occasion, the serpent had been preserved as a reminder of Israel’s sin and God’s mercy, but it had become an object of worship. Whereas, by the grace of God, a look at it had brought life, now it brought death to those who looked to it instead of to God.
This piece of brass, which was a type of sin judged, as it brought healing instead of death, was also a type of Him Who, knowing no sin, was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. He was to be lifted up, at once the Object of God’s wrath against sin and sinful man’s wrath against God. What He accomplished on the cross, in the putting away of sin by the sacrifice of Himself, made it possible for those who looked to Him to be saved, and to have eternal life.
“Nehushtan” served its day and was properly broken to pieces, but it was otherwise with the Anti-type: “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ‘A Bone of Him shall not be broken’ “ (John 19:31-36).
Those bones, that framework of theWord made flesh to dwell among us, was to be used again, eternally. Only a few days later, Thomas would view the nail-pierced hands and the spear-pierced side of this same Jesus, risen from the dead, and cry, “My Lord and my God!”
He “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” went down, down, down in obedience, even to the death of the cross. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Lifted up, the piece of brass fashioned by Moses into a serpent, brought life, on that occasion, to all who looked, but in itself it had no life-giving power. And when the occasion passed, it was fit only to be broken in pieces. But He, Who was made flesh to become sin for us, was raised from the dead, and is seated now at the right hand of God in heaven, a Man in the glory, to be the Object of eternal adoration and worship. He is the source of life eternal, the One Who lives and became dead and is alive forevermore.