The Cure of the Cross – Roy Blizzard III @ Joppa Church Bertram, Texas 05-04-2014

The Cure of the Cross

Roy Blizzard III © 2014


Text: John 3:14-15 and Numbers 21:4-9

4) And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. 5) And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

6) And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7) Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8) And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9) And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

John 3:14-15, The Gospel of John, An Actual Translation © 2012

1)      “And as Moses (the Lawgiver) lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (to save the people who looked upon it from certain death) thus (I) the Son of Man (the Lawgiver) must be lifted up.” (so those who look to me for salvation will find it) {Rosh Hashanah 3:8}

2)      “So that all who believe into Him (are faithful to Him) will not perish (spiritually) but will have eternal life.” (with YHWH God in Heaven because the Son of Man – lawgiver – is YHWH and has come to bring salvation)

Suppose you were living in a community where a sudden epidemic of incurable disease had become so widespread that every US citizen was a going to be a victim? Hundreds of people would be dying all around you and you could be sure that death was inevitable for you too. There would be no cure because it was a new disease, unlike anything that the world had ever seen or suffered through before. Your whole community would eventually be wiped out. But then, suppose that in the midst of all the suffering and death, one man might arise with a simple but mysterious and almost incredible cure. Medical Science would call it quackery. Scholars would call it hocus-pocus. And the practical men of common sense would turn away from it in disgust. What would you do? Would you believe in the cure, or join with those who chose to call it nonsense?

Perhaps you are thinking that this is a pretty fantastic supposition. You may be saying to yourself that this could never happen. Well, in fact it did happen many centuries ago in a desert where the nation of Israel was punished for rebelling against God. You can find this record in Numbers 21. Because the people condemned God’s method of providing and caring for them, they were afflicted with fiery serpents that invaded the camp in large numbers and afflicted them with poisonous bites. There was no antidote for the poison, and many people started dying. That was the penalty for rebellion and disobedience.

But when the suffering victims cried to God in true repentance, He gave Moses a prescription which would cure the diseases and remove the epidemic. He told Moses to make a serpent of brass that looked very much like those fiery serpents in the wilderness and put it on a tall pole in the middle of the camp so that all the people could see it. And then God said that everyone who looked upon it in Faith would be healed at once. If they refused to look upon it, they would die. And it just so happened that the events occurred just as God said they would. Those that looked lived, those that didn’t died.

What a seemingly odd story this is, but I’m sure it happened. And if you think it is too much to believe, then what do you think of Jesus when he used that very same story to illustrate his whole purpose and mission in this world? Jesus said in John 3, “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.” Jesus, frankly compared humanity with those suffering Israelites, and he compared himself with the serpent of brass. That parallel is clear cut. He said that just as the serpent was lifted up on a pole, so too he must be lifted up onto a cross, and just as those dying victims were cured of the disease when they looked in faith to that serpent, so too the dying sinners would be cured of their disease of sin if they looked in faith and obedience upon Jesus and what he was doing upon the cross. In both cases we see a supernatural cure, wrought by Faith/Faithfulness and obedience to God.

Now that is what Jesus taught. You may call it preposterous or fantastic or whatever, but remember that you are dealing with the teachings of Jesus himself.

If you are not a believer this morning, this teaching may look like absolute nonsense to you and you may be tempted to dismiss it with a flippant wave of the hand. However, it certainly is the height of arrogance to live in this world and ignore the claims of one who is recognized to be the greatest figure in all world history. When we disagree with someone’s ideas but have no answers or refutations for them, usually we are tempted to label them nonsense and just walk away in disgust. But you shouldn’t do that with Jesus. You should at least listen to his teachings and if you don’t accept what he says then you should be prepared to offer up something better, something more wise. Many people have had the good sense to do the former; so far no one I’ve ever met or heard of has done the latter.

The first thing that strikes people about this teaching of Jesus is his diagnosis of what ails humanity. We are said to be like those Israelites in the wilderness, suffering from a dreadful disease which is the punishment of rebellion against God, the penalty of sin. The picture is not a pretty one, but let’s face it, honestly, it is a universal epidemic and not one of use is excluded! It is an incurable disease for man as no mere man has been able to find a remedy for it. It is a painful affliction; the world groans in agony and its end is death, eternal death for the soul.

Such is the teaching of Jesus. There is no mistaking the parallel which he draws. And just as we accept the diagnosis of the physician who examines us in times of physical illness, so too are we bound to accept every point of the diagnosis of our soul’s physician.

First of all it should be obvious that sin is a Universal Disease. Only the self-righteous would even try to deny it. The scriptures say in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fell short of the Glory of God. And Ephesians 2:1 states, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” In Psalms 14:3 God put it in very sweeping terms when He said, “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

The disease of sin is not only universal; it is incurable as far as human remedies go. We have tried moralizing and humanism and materialism and other false religions and gods in a vain effort to lift humanity from the hopelessness and despair they face, but nothing has worked. Look around you. Do you see the world getting better from its own devices? God’s word is very plain that men can’t be their own savior. Man’s sin can only be cured by God’s divine grace.

As Jesus put it once in John 8:34, “verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is a slave of sin.”

(John 8:34 – And Yeshua (Jesus) answered them, “Amen, Amen (listen to what was just said) I say to you that everyone that does a sinful act is a slave to that sin.” (guilt of sin, – the judgment of sin = death) (From the time of Mt. Sinai, the Jews had to continually offer up sacrifices for their “sin”, they were slaves to that process by which they received propitiation and they are bound in a covenant of death to that sin) [Leviticus 4:2, 22, 27, 5:15, Numbers 15:27-28, Psalms 51:7, 103:10, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Isaiah 1:18] {Avot 3:9 “Rabbi Chanina the son of Dosa would say: One whose fear of sin takes precedence to his wisdom, his wisdom endures. But one whose wisdom takes precedence to his fear of sin, his wisdom does not endure.”}The Gospel of John, An Actual Translation © 2012

Furthermore, this is a painful disease and not only in the sense that it brings forth physical suffering into the world. Its greatest pain is felt in the soul of men around the world. Sin can take a child as clean and upright as anyone we know and turn them in just a short while into a hard, hateful, and cruel criminal. It can take a youngster as loveable and wholesome as any we know and make them a wastrel, soiled in spirit and mean or instantly destroy their mind and spirit through cruel depraved acts upon them. It can make human beings formed in the image and likeness of God himself into wild beasts who hurl themselves at each other trying to kill one another to settle some minor dispute. Sin has individual and social roots from which we harvest the bitter and painful experiences of the soul. It has a fierce grip upon our hearts that not only hurts us but make us hurt others too as we slowly lose our minds to sin’s depravity.

Finally, sin is a deadly disease. Its end is eternal death, separation from God forever. As God tells us in that familiar verse which we know so well, “the wages of sin is death.” What can we expect if we rebel against God? One can’t disobey God with impunity. The soul that is sick with sin and finds no cure must expect the inevitable consequence, namely death, eternal spiritual death, living apart from God and your families and friends existence forever. And to be honest with you, that type of death is far worse than physical death, which is just the mere separation of body, soul and spirit at the end of this earthly life. The death of the soul is the supreme tragedy of the universe and there is no escape from it unless one finds the cure for the disease of sin.

Such is our God’s diagnosis of what ails all humanity. But now look at the cure that God prescribes. Strange as it may seem, the cure is no more appealing to many people as the diagnosis. They are like patients who not only refuse to look at the X-rays or MRI’s of a broken leg and believe them, but also refuse the doctors advice for setting the bones and becoming healed. This may seem like an odd reaction, but in the case of the spiritual disease, it is not too difficult to explain.

I suppose there were many Israelites in the wilderness who thought that looking to a brass snake on a pole to heal them from their agonies was the height of absurdity. They couldn’t understand it so they refused to believe it. It looked foolish and unreasonable and it may have even insulted their intelligence, but thusly they died, forever not believing.

Jesus, our savior, shed his blood on a cross as an atonement for us sinners. He is the savior of the world, but what he did for you may look to your fleshly mind just as patently absurd or insult your intellect too, as Paul reports many people in his day did. Paul reported that preaching the cross of Jesus was a stumbling block to the Jewish people and foolishness to the Greeks. But, Paul adds that to him and all the believers it is the very power of God and the wisdom of God.

No one denies that this whole subject appears to be a great mystery, too great for the mere minds of men to comprehend. But the point is that God’s plan works. Millions of souls have looked to the Cross of Jesus and have found that by doing so they were cured of their sins and sinful nature forever.

People suffering from an incurable disease do not demand that medical science must answer all the great questions of the universe and how all disease operates before they submit to a doctor’s care. All they want to do is be cured. That’s all. People who are spiritually sick, and hopeless victims at that, ought not to ask foolish questions about the cure which God prescribes even though it may baffle them temporarily. Neither should the sick object to the healing power of the cross of Jesus on the grounds that it appears unreasonable.

The greatest mystery of the cure of the cross is at the same time a simple truth. You will find it by analogy in the story about the suffering Israelites in the wilderness. God’s cure for them was administered by was of a fiery serpent made of brass that resembled in outward appearances the serpents that had bitten them. And this calls to mind Paul’s words in II Corinthians 5:21, “ For he –God- hath made him – Jesus – to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Jesus, the son of God and the son of man who was without sin, had to take the burden of our sins upon himself and be crucified to heal us. Jesus became our substitute. He died so that we may live, both physically and spiritually. He identified himself with our misery and appeared by all outward appearances to be a sinner, condemned to death as we are. And because he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, we may receive the blessings of pardon and forgiveness and eternal life.

The mystery is great indeed, but the truth is very simple. You may not comprehend it, but you can believe it. It may baffle, but it saves.

The cross of Jesus stands in the middle of the World surrounded by men and women who are suffering and dying in their sins. If they will just look in Faith and Trust towards that cross and to the Living Jesus who died upon that cross, they shall not perish, but have eternal life. If they choose to look away, they will perish in eternal death.

Always, everywhere, that cross and what it represents is in the middle of life. You can’t get away from it. You can’t bypass it, flee from it, or fail to see it because it is always there. For just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, God has lifted up Jesus upon the cross for the whole world to see. The crucified and risen Jesus is the most conspicuous personage in the world, but he is conspicuous only as others see him lifted up in your own lives.

The final destiny of human souls is determined by the cross of Jesus. Your soul is confronted with an eternal decision when you stand in the presence of the crucified savior who carries with him the cure for your sin, you can either believe or disbelieve. For one choice there is eternal life, for the other eternal death. There is no neutral ground.

What choice are you going to make today!

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