Lifted on a Miracle

Yeshua told Nicodemus, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."

Moses and the Brazen Serpent (Image: Sébastien Bourdon, 1653-1654 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)


Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Chukat (חוקת | Statute)
  • Torah: Numbers 19:1-22:1
  • Haftarah: Judges 11:1-33
  • Gospel: John 19:38-42

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Numbers 19:1 | Ceremony of the Red Heifer
    • Numbers 20:1 | The Waters of Meribah
    • Numbers 20:14 | Passage through Edom Refused
    • Numbers 20:22 | The Death of Aaron
    • Numbers 21:1 | The Bronze Serpent
    • Numbers 21:10 | The Journey to Moab
    • Numbers 21:21 | King Sihon Defeated
    • Numbers 21:33 | King Og Defeated
  • Prophets
    • Jdg 11:1 | Jephthah
    • Jdg 11:29 | Jephthah's Vow

Portion Summary

Chukat is the thirty-ninth reading from the Torah. The word chukat (חוקת) means "statute." The name is derived from the second verse of the reading: "This is the statute of the law which the LORD has commanded" (Numbers 19:2). Chukat presents the mysterious laws of the red-heifer ceremony for purification after contact with human death. This reading also contains the story of Moses striking the rock, the stories of the deaths of Aaron and Miriam and the wars with the Amorites. The portion concludes with the host of Israel encamping on the edge of the Promised Land.

When Yeshua says, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14), He was hinting about the kind of death He was going to die, but there is a second meaning to these words as well. He was speaking not only of His death, but also of His ascension forty days after the resurrection.

God told Moses to "make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard." (Numbers 21:8) A standard is a pole atop which an emblem is displayed. The Hebrew word nes (נס) may also be translated as “miracle.” God told Moses to “make a bronze serpent, and set it on a nes …” The sages wanted to know the particular “miracle” Moses was to set the serpent upon. By reading nes as “miracle” instead of “pole,” they explained that Moses set the serpent on a miracle by tossing it into the air where it remained hovering above the ground so that all Israel could look upon it:

“Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a miracle (nes, נס)” (Numbers 21:9). That means he cast it into the air and it stayed there.” (Numbers Rabbah 19:23)

This fanciful explanation of the Hebrew also fits the context of John 3. Yeshua was explaining to Nicodemus that the Son of Man must be “lifted up.” He had just told Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (John 3:13). In a similar passage, He told the Galileans that He had descended from heaven. When they objected, He replied, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” (John 6:61-62).

In John 3, He told Nicodemus that no one has ascended to heaven, but He will be lifted up because He descended from heaven. Then He explains, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14). In this context, His words seem to point toward His ascension. It is the ascension of Yeshua—His return to His former station of glory with the Father—that holds the promise of salvation for everyone who believes.

How will this ascension be accomplished? Just as Moses tossed the serpent into the air and there it remained for all to look unto for salvation, so too, the Son of Man will ascend and remain “lifted up” for the salvation of all who will look to Him.

Yeshua’s words to Nicodemus imply both His cross and His ascension. The lifting of the Son of Man upon the pole (nes) will bring about the lifting of the Son of Man through the miracle (nes) of His ascension.

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