John 12:20-50


John 12:20-50
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
John 12:32
As he spoke these words Jesus surely had in mind an event that had taken place some fifteen hundred years earlier and is recorded in Numbers 21:4-9. The people of Israel had recently been delivered from slavery in Egypt but now they started to grumble against God and stopped trusting him. In judgement God sent swarms of snakes amongst them and many people died.

This is a graphic picture of all sin which is, at its root, grumbling against God and turning away from trusting him, in the vain belief that we know better. Often the effects of sin are invisible but on this occasion God dramatically revealed them, slithering among the people, bringing pain and death. Most people agree that “big sins” do poison society. But, just as some of the smallest snakes are the deadliest, often it’s the sins we consider small that have the most destructive consequences. The Bible is clear that there is one penalty for sin against a Holy God; “the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23. This is a painful truth, but unless we accept it we will see no need for a saviour and the idea that Jesus needed to die for us makes no sense.

The good news is that, alongside judgement, God mercifully provided a way of deliverance. In Numbers 21 God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and raise it on a pole above the people so that anyone who looked at it would be healed from the effect of the snake bite. Twice in John’s gospel, Jesus uses this image to explain why he had to die. The second is here in John 12 but the first precedes one of the most well-known verses in the Bible: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:14-16.

Crucifixion was not only a slow and excruciatingly painful form of execution, it was also utterly humiliating. The naked and broken victim was raised up and exposed to public scorn and derision. Yet Jesus invites us to look up with faith. We’ve all felt the bite of sin to some degree or other. Its venom has flowed through our veins guaranteeing our eventual destruction.  But Jesus says that if we look up to him with faith we will find healing and deliverance.

If you are conscious of sin today, if you feel that your relationship with God has been poisoned, I encourage you to look up and have hope. You may only now be realising just how deadly even “small” sins are. But God has mercifully provided a means of deliverance that is open to anyone who places their trust in what Jesus did for us on the cross.


  1. How do you feel about the stark way that Numbers 21 presents sin and its effects?

  2. Would you agree that often underestimating the seriousness of sin and underestimating the mercy of God go hand in hand? Why not ask God to give you a clearer understanding of both?

  3. Take some time to tell Jesus what you believe about his death and express trust in what it has accomplished for you.


Lord Jesus,

I am full of fresh gratitude today as I think of what you did for me on the cross. You are right to judge sin but I am so grateful that you also provide mercy. I look up to you with faith today trusting you to forgive my sin and deliver me from its affects. As you were once lifted up in shame, you are now lifted up in glory. You have drawn even my heart to yourself and I worship you – my Saviour and my God.

This Everyday Devotions was written by David Featherstone who, together with his wife Amanda, leads our Sutton Venue.

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