“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. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-16).
In this most famous of Bible verses, the very first word, “for,” often is ignored. And yet, by connecting verse 16 with the two verses that precede, the word “for” shows us that God’s love is the reason not only for the sending of the Son to Earth, but also for the execution of the Son at the hands of the Romans. Just as God had instructed Moses to lift the serpent on the pole so that Israelites could look to it and survive deadly snakebites (Numbers 21), Christ was “lifted up” (crucified) so that all who seek salvation through Him could find it.
God loved wicked, helpless, lost humanity—you and me—enough to providentially lift up His Son on the cross on our behalf. When the Roman soldiers crucified Christ, the Father’s will was being done (Matthew 26:39; John 6:38; Philippians 2:8).
The love of the Almighty for His enemies is repeatedly connected to the sending of the Son to die on the cross:
- Isaiah 53:10. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief;
- Romans 4:25. [Christ] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
- Romans 8:3. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. . . .
- Romans 8:32. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
- 2 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.
If our heavenly Father would go to the extreme of providentially lifting His Son onto the cross for you and me, then doubtless He will give us many lesser gifts, just as He has promised to do. Will He not take care of us during this life and then take us home to be with Him in the next life? (See Matthew 7:7-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.) Let us rejoice in God’s love for us.