I've been thinking about this passage for a while, wondering about Jesus' logic: how did he get from Nicodemus needing new birth to the snake on the pole? And how do I teach this to kids?
I think I've cracked it.
We have Nic all self righteous. "We know that you are a great teacher..."
Jesus replies with, "You know nothing. You need to be born again."
Then Nicodemus is all.. What? How?
Then Jesus tells him that he is as good as dead. Like the Israelites under judgement in the desert. They were dying of snakebite because of their sin. Nicodemus (despite his pharisaic righteousness) is dying of his sin. He needs new life. The Israelites were given life through looking to the lifted-up snake. Nic needs to look to the lifted up son of man to get his new birth and live.
He doesn't understand now, but when he sees Jesus on the cross he will. He'll look up and believe and be granted eternal life.
Do we know that we're as dead as the snake bitten Israelites in the desert?
Will we look to the one lifted up and live?