Jesus “Lifted Up”
John 3 – Jesus “lifted up.”
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:14, 15
Looking to Jesus as he is “lifted up” and believing in him results in eternal life, but what does it mean to ‘believe in Jesus?’ To ‘believe in Jesus’ means to accept as truth what Jesus reveals about God. Are we to look at his death as the major reason for his existence and the reason he came to Earth? Did Jesus come just to die and nothing else? Where in scripture are Jesus’ words that reveal his mission was for him to die?
It is somewhat intriguing that only the gospel of John includes these three vital verses describing Jesus being “lifted up.” This first instance recorded in John 3 is sandwiched between Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus and Jesus’ opening statement about his Father, God. It is relevant that this first episode reverts back to the time when Moses lifted up the snake on the pole in the desert, because it was then that the Children of Israel needed to take their eyes off themselves and look up. Wandering around in the wilderness for years caused the weary travelers to be down-cast and tired, and trudging through dry desert land with a sparse survival kit caused life to become boring and distasteful. It made complaining a very easy road to follow, and looking down instead of looking up became the sad result. Nothing, in that respect, has changed much since then as we all today would do well to look elsewhere instead of looking at ourselves and each other.
John 8 – Jesus “lifted up.”
They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” John 8:27-29
Looking to Jesus as he is “lifted up,” people will know absolutely that he is God’s representative, that he was sent by the Father to demonstrate his character; to testify about him; to reveal his nature; to tell those willing to listen about God. When Jesus verbalized anything concerning himself or his Father, realize that it was the Father who taught Jesus what to say and how to say it. (John 12:49).
The second instance recorded in John 8 contains some information that adds to our knowledge of God. What four things happen when we “look up?” First, we will know that Jesus’ claim about himself is true, that he is the Son of God and the Son of Man. Secondly, we will understand that Jesus does nothing on his own, that he and his Father do everything exactly the same. Thirdly, Jesus speaks the words that the Father taught him to speak. And lastly, everything Jesus does pleases the Father. When fully understood, these four aspects define Jesus and his relationship with his Father, and as it was with the people then who heard him say these words, perhaps we too may listen and place our faith in him (v. 30).
This episode occurred at the time Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees because Jesus’ testimony did not agree with their perception of God. Unless the Pharisees believed what Jesus was telling them, they would indeed die in their sins, their unbelief. But it was a near hopeless situation as Jesus revealed their true nature of seeking to kill him.
John 12 – Jesus “lifted up.”
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” John 12:31, 32
Looking to Jesus as he is “lifted up,” a time of judgment comes upon the world, and it is then that the prince of this world, Satan, will exit the scene. Is this the ‘end-time’ judgment that precludes Jesus’ return (his second coming), or is it something else? Could this judgment, this decision making, be just that where people are making choices whether to accept or reject Jesus and what he has revealed about himself and his heavenly Father? Is the prince of this world driven out of people’s lives by the choice they make as individuals who accept what Jesus has demonstrated for all to see?
It can be seen in these three episodes the steady progression from one to the next. First, in John 3, Jesus is willing to give information about himself and his Father, and if this information is believed, it will lead to eternal life. Next, in John 8, the unbelief and rejection of that information will result in death; in fact, people will die in their sins. Last, in John 12, is the judgment of whether a person has accepted or rejected the information, and it is Jesus alone who knows and can read the hearts of all individuals. Acceptance of information implies eternal life; rejection of information implies judgment and death, even the death of the One who gives life.
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