“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:14–16

There have been many theories propounded concerning the circumstances surrounding our Savior’s sacrifice of His life on Calvary. The event is so well documented in history that the fact of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot honestly be doubted. The theories that have been creatively invented to deny truth almost make Occam’s Razor the easiest answer to those who try to explain away the miraculous.

Some of the theories are quite ancient. One theory, rising out the belief that matter and all things physical are sinful, tried to get people to believe that the sinless Son of God had to only appear to be a man when He died on the cross or His holiness would have been sullied. The theory eviscerates the very message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. He had to actually become my substitute and carry my sins in order to pay for the penalty I justly deserve for my sin. Without the substitutionary death of Christ and the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. It takes more inventive faith to believe falsehood than to simply trust the Word of God!

Another more recent theory invented to explain away the miracle of the resurrection is the swoon theory. The general claim is that Jesus appeared to die, swooning on the cross, but in the cold, damp tomb He revived and then He appeared to rise when He escaped the tomb. The conjecture is that an ordinary man could withstand the blood loss, the fearsome beating, the nails through the hands and feet, and the spear into the heart and then have strength to stand up, roll the several ton stone up the ramp in front of the tomb, knock the stone over and move out while being wrapped in yards of mummifying cloth! Not at all likely, nor does it qualify as a sacrifice that purchases salvation for anyone.

The misguided theory that I would like to address today is the one that seeks to explain away the uniqueness of who Jesus Christ was, and is. This theory posits that Jesus grew up studying the Scriptures and discovered that He was living at just the one moment in time when all the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament converged and world events were just right for a Messianic claim. Based on His study of the Word, He began to conform His life activities to resemble the long sought after Messiah. He began to preach His messages. Then events got out of control. The claim is made that He never expected to die, but He was the victim of circumstances, Jewish jealousy and Roman rule.

While the theory does allow for the death of Jesus Christ, it denies the efficacy of His death. Certainly, Jesus Christ occupied a rather rarified position. His entire generation, from two years old and down, were wiped out shortly after His birth. He was unique. He did fulfill all of the prophecies about the Messiah, even to the prophesied date of the Triumphal Entry. No one else fit the outright credentials, especially as viewed through His ancestral claim to the throne of Israel, receiving His right to rule through His adoption by Joseph and His lineage approval to rule through Mary. But, because of the Holy Spirit’s instrumentality at His conception, His very nature was like no other human being. He is fully God and fully man. He is uniquely the Son of God and the Son of Man.

This union of His divine nature and His human nature is theologically called the Hypostatic Union. He was not half-God and half-man. He was not a hybrid with internal struggles between His divine part and His human part. And He was not merely a good and godly man. He was, and is, fully God and fully man. He fully knew what He faced in Jerusalem when He arrived there. He is the only human being born to die.

In John 3 it is obvious that Jesus is God’s Son and He knew He fulfilled the meaning of Moses’ serpent in the wilderness. The serpent was provided by the Lord, it was conspicuous and accessible, it was an object of faith, and it symbolized the plague that was killing the people. It was lifted up on a pole so that all might be able to be look upon it and be saved.

Our Lord knew He was to give His life that we might live. John the Immerser had stated so at Jesus’ baptism (John 1:29). Six months before the cross, Jesus began to prepare His disciples for what was to come, especially on three occasions, as He predicted what was to happen to Him. In Matthew 16:21, He named the place—in Jerusalem at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders, he would be killed and raised the third day. In Matthew 17:22f, He added that He would be betrayed, killed, and raised. In Matthew 20:17ff, He specifically added the prophecy of a trial, His delivery into the hands of the Gentiles, the mocking, scourging, and crucifixion. But each prophecy included the promise of His resurrection on the third day! (Matthew 26:12, 21; John 12:24 are also instructive.)

Our Lord was not taken by surprise. He fully knew what He faced (Psalm 22) and voluntarily submitted to His death so that He might purchase the salvation of every believer. Without His sacrifice, John 3:16 loses all connection with reality and you lose any hope of forgiveness and eternal life. Trust and obey.