Uncover the dual meaning of "lifted up" in Jesus' teachings, revealing a profound blend of sacrifice, glory, and universal salvation.
John 12:32-34 — Lifted Up — Aneel Aranha
Hello and welcome to the Bite-Sized Gospel. Today we will reflect on John 12:32-34. Listen.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”
This is a fascinating passage with several elements to explore. Let’s break it up into individual parts.
The phrase "lifted up," used by Jesus in today's passage, carries a double meaning. It refers to the crucifixion, a method of execution that is both humiliating and painful. Yet, paradoxically, it is also a moment of glory and exaltation. This duality is central to Christian theology: the cross, a symbol of suffering and defeat, is simultaneously a symbol of triumph and salvation.
Jesus being "lifted up" would draw *all people* to himself. This statement speaks about the universal scope of Jesus' mission. Everyone — across ethnic, cultural, and religious boundaries — are invited into a relationship with God. The Jews expected a savior only for Israel; Jesus was a savior of all humanity.
The crowd responded by saying, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’?” This response highlights a common misunderstanding of the Messiah's role. They believed God would send a political liberator who would establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus was there, however, for spiritual liberation.
They then asked, "Who is this 'Son of Man'?" Jesus often used the phrase "Son of Man" to describe himself. Where does it originate? It comes from the Book of Daniel (see Daniel 7:13-14). The prophet describes a vision of "one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven." This figure is presented to the "Ancient of Days" (a title for God) and is given authority, glory, and sovereign power. All nations and peoples of every language worship him. His dominion is everlasting and will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
In this vision, the "Son of Man" is a heavenly figure, endowed with divine authority and an eternal kingdom. This portrayal contrasts with the other beasts in Daniel's vision, which represent earthly kingdoms. The "Son of Man" symbolizes a rule that is not only universal but also transcendent, surpassing the temporal and often oppressive nature of earthly powers.
Jesus' words also serve as a prophetic indication of his own death. By declaring the manner of his death, he demonstrates awareness of his mission and its cost. How amazing is that!
God bless you.