Next in the series So That You May Believe is a sonnet based on John 3:1-20. In this passage the elder of Israel, Nicodemus, comes to Jesus inquiring of his identity. Nicodemus apprehends that Jesus is somebody, but he doesn’t see who he is clearly.

Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ questions and confusion with a riddle of sorts which we read in John 3:11-14,

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 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.

Jesus identifies himself and his purpose with two Old Testament passages: Daniel 7 and Numbers 21. In effect he is saying, I am the Son of Man, the cloud rider, who has stood before the Ancient of Days (Dan 7), and I am the reality of which Moses’ bronze serpent was only a shadow (Num 21). It’s as if he is saying, You will see Nicodemus, when you see the Son of Man lifted up as the bronze serpent was lifted up and that will identify the full measure of the love of God for the world and my love for you.

The mystery, and that which needs seeing, is that the Son of Man took the place of the serpent for us. The Seed who was to crush the serpents head (Genesis 3:15) was himself crushed as the serpent. Paul would later write in 1 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The question is what did Nicodemus come to see. He appears along with Joseph of Arimathea (another disciple in secret) in John 19. Joseph and Nicodemus take Jesus’ body, anoint and wrap it, and place it in the tomb.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

I came to him at night hoping to hear
A word which would confirm, dispel my doubt,
Justify the risk, and assuage my fear
That the price would get me in, not leave me out.
He said one must be born again to see
God’s Kingdom in its beauty, love, and light,
But I can’t understand how that can be;
Can one be made a child? Can that be right?

Three years later with a child’s eyes I see
A bronze serpent’s likeness, crushed Nehushtan*
I gaze upon healing his life for me,
The exaltation of the Son of Man.

Oh, what new mercies may the morning bring,
Turn lament to joy, give a song to sing?

*Nehushtan was the name given to the bronze serpent which likeness was kept in Jerusalem. 2Kings 18 says that Hezekiah had it broken into pieces because it became an object of worship.

© Randy Edwards 2018.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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