13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Our Redeemer Jesus Christ, Who Saves
by Rishi Sriram, Ph.D.
John 3:16 is possibly the most well-known verse in the Bible. Because of that fact, the context of the verse can be lost. Nicodemus, a Pharisee who was part of the Jewish ruling council, came to Jesus in the night to talk with him in secret. Jesus seems unimpressed with Nicodemus. Nevertheless, Jesus unveils his purpose to Nicodemus in a bold and direct way that Jesus rarely does with others.
In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man—the true man who represents all of humanity. He then refers back to a story in the book of Numbers that Nicodemus would surely have known as a Pharisee. In Numbers chapter 21, God had already freed the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, and the Lord proved Himself multiple times through miracles while the Israelites traveled. And yet, the Israelites were frustrated and impatient, and they lashed out at the God who saved them.
The Lord responded by handing them over to their misery. He sent venomous snakes among them; many Israelites were bitten, and some died. The people came to Moses in repentance, acknowledging their sin and asking for salvation from the snakes. When Moses prayed for the people, God told Moses to make a snake out of bronze and place it on a pole. Anyone who looked at the bronze snake received healing and lived.
Now Jesus, speaking with Nicodemus, unveils his purpose. He makes it clear that the bronze snake is a picture of God’s salvation for his people. The Son of Man will be lifted up, not on a pole but on a cross, and everyone who looks to him and believes in him will have eternal life. Similarly to how a bronze snake saved the Israelites from their snake wounds, Jesus became sin to save us from our sin.
Our God is not about condemnation, but salvation. And that salvation comes through the true human, our Lord Jesus Christ. For God’s attitude toward us is not one of anger, but of love. He does not seek to condemn us for our sins but to save us from them. He is the way, he is the truth, and he is the very eternal life he promises to give to those who will look upon him and believe.
Learn More About Our Guest Writer
Rishi Sriram, Ph.D.
Rishi Sriram, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership in Baylor’s School of Education. Dr. Sriram also is the graduate program director for the Department of Educational Leadership. He teaches in the Higher Education & Student Affairs (HESA) M.S.Ed. program and the Higher Education Studies & Leadership Ph.D. program. He has previously served as associate chair for the department.
Dr. Sriram spent eight years as a higher education and student affairs administrator at Baylor before beginning his current role as a faculty member in 2010. As an administrator, he played a key role in the development of living-learning programs at Baylor, as well as the establishment of the faculty-in-residence program. Through that program, Dr. Sriram is faculty steward for Brooks Residential College, living in the residence hall with his family since 2013.