When Jesus was hung on the cross he became sin. Jesus compared himself to the bronze serpent Moses placed on a pole in the story found in Numbers 21. He said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so shall the Son of Man be lifted up.” Why do you suppose he would choose that particular story?
The Apostle Paul told us in Romans 8 God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh… In the story found in Numbers 21 the Children of Israel had been complaining about their conditions; so God sent fiery serpents among them and many were bitten. God told Moses to make this serpent and place it on a pole and all that looked to it would be healed of their snakebite. In the same way Jesus was lifted up on the cross and became sin. You see he became what we were so we might become what he is. He gives us his righteousness for our sin. He took upon himself “Sin” so we might become a partaker of his divine nature.
When Adam fell he opened himself to the serpent; since then all of us have been born with the nature of the serpent in our flesh. So you see it isn’t merely a question of morals, or being “Good”, we are in need of a change of natures. Although it is so easy for us to get caught up in attempting to manage our sins, God is looking to get to the root of our problem. This is why Jesus had to come in the likeness of sinful flesh. “Since the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil…” He took our sinful nature upon himself, carried it to the grave and triumphed over sin, death and the grave by being raised three days later!
Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, lived his life as a human. The Bible teaches us human beings are vessels, Temples and branches designed to house the Holy Spirit. When the sinless vessel, Jesus Christ, was lifted up he absorbed sin. Now all that look to him in faith are healed of their sinful nature. Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up form the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” We, that place our faith in the lifted up Savior, will be set free from our sinful indweller and the Holy Spirit will move into the brand new, cleansed Temple. Like I said, God is after the root of our problem and once we look by faith to the crucified Son of Man we become a partaker of his divine nature. The old serpentine, sin nature is out behold all things have become brand new!
In 1 John we are told “now we are the sons of God, and we don’t know yet what we’ll be but we know when we see him we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he really is.” Jesus Christ came here in the likeness of sinful flesh in order for us to one day be in his likeness with a brand new body to go with our new nature. For right now we’re still looking forward to our new bodies but we can rest assured as the Apostle Paul said, “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”