The bit before and after John 3:16

After listening to a sermon recently, I’ve had John 3 on my mind. What I’d like to share with you briefly is the bit bit just beforeand after John 3:16. Everyone knows John 3:16, but the verses either side of this key verse tend to be forgotten about!

John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Jesus is so kind in giving us this image. The guy who he’s talking to in John 3 knows his Old Testament well. And so Jesus kindly explains that anyone who looks to Jesus will be saved and have everlasting life by way of using the events that are recorded in Numbers 21 as a picture of this amazing truth.

Here’s the first bit of Numbers 21:

Arad Destroyed

1 When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. 2 Then Israel made this vow to the LORD: “If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities.” 3 The LORD listened to Israel’s plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah.

The Bronze Snake

4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

To close, I’ll leave you with a few points from the passage to think about, pray over and digest. They all relate to that passage in John 3;

  1. The people were speaking out against God – a picture of sin. (Verse 4&5)
  2. Snakes are the image of death and hell. We have all been bitten by sin, and it is up to God to act justly in dealing with this sin. (Verse 6)
  3. The people realised that they had sinned (Verse 7)
  4. God has made a way for us to be cured of sin and saved from death and hell. (Verse 8 )
  5. It took only a look and the people lived because of their faith (Verse 8 )

So it is with Jesus Christ. It only takes a look; we are saved through faith in Him. We have all been bitten by sin, yet God in his love and mercy has provided a cure – Jesus who was lifted up on a cross, died in our place, and who asks us to merely look at Him (that is, to trust in him) and be saved. Amen!

Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @

  • Anonymous

    This is a very enlightening post. Keep them coming 🙂