What is happening in this passage?
Nicodemus, one of the rulers and "teacher" of Israel is completely lost and is being chastised by Jesus, a street preacher.
What is Jesus referring to in John 3:14?
It's Numbers 21:7-9: "Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, 'We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.' So Moses prayed for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.' So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.'"
The bronze serpent on a pole is an image of whom?
After what moment?
When He is hanging on the cross after he had taken on the sins, cried out, "Why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) to God the Father, followed by, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) and His death. The snake wasn’t foreshadowing the baby Jesus in a manger. It was foreshadowing Jesus stricken on the cross for our sins, and this is what the next two verses, John 3:15 and 16, are referring to in "believing in Him."
Believing in what about Him?
That He is God who loved us so much that He came and paid the death penalty for your our sins, and it is that substitutional death which has cleared our way to heaven. So to go to heaven, we need to realize and believe THAT about Jesus.
What if I don't feel like a sinner?
According to the Bible, a sinner isn't just a mass murderer or rapist. It's everyone who has failed to meet God's standard of perfect holiness. The Bible declares that every single person has "sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).