We live in a hurting world where multitudes of people feel knocked down, crushed and deeply injured. Sometimes the hurts come as a result of our own failures and sins. Many times they come from the sin and failures of others. In either case, we need someone to offer us a lift, a helping hand, and a listening ear so we can deal with our hurts and rise from them to be helpful to others. One of the common statements made of Jesus during his ministry on earth was that He reached down and lifted them up. Most of the time it was tied to someone who was injured or handicapped and Jesus healed them, but even after they were healed he would reach down to lift them up. The writer of the Book of Hebrews offers this challenge in Hebrews 12:12 “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” He had been talking about enduring hardship that comes to us in the form of discipline, knowing that when God disciplines it is because of his deep love for us and longing for us to grow through the hurts. Yet no discipline ever seems pleasant at the time, but painful. It is afterward that the benefit comes in the form of righteousness and peace.
In John 12:31-32 the picture of being lifted up is used in an entirely different way. “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all people to myself.” John goes on to say that this was telling how he would be put to death. It certainly fits his means of dying by crucifixion. He was nailed to the cross then lifted up from the earth to die an agonizing death so we can be saved from sin. But there seems to be more to this than just pointing to the means of his death by crucifixion. The words translated “lifted up” also mean “exalted.” Jesus in dying was also being exalted from the place he had filled on earth to become the king of kings and Lord of lords. Earlier in this chapter, Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey that had never been ridden before. People were putting down their coats and branches and crying out hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. After this Jesus was with the disciples when some Greeks approached Philip asking to see Jesus. He went to Andrew who took them to Jesus. Jesus took their coming as a signal of what was about to happen. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their in this world will keep it for eternal life.
So, Jesus saw his death not just as being lifted up but as the planting of a seed that would produce a harvest and he saw it as being like our own death to self and sin that we may grow and have a harvest of righteousness in life.
There is a practical point I want to make on this. Jesus was lifted up on the cross. He was raised and he ascended to the Father and now reigns as our king. But it is also true that when we as his people lift him up, it has the result of drawing people to him. Paul made the statement in 2 Corinthians 3 that he didn’t preach himself but Christ Jesus. He said he and Apollos were ones that planted and watered the seed but it was God who gave the growth or increase. It is impossible to both lift up ourselves or other people while still lifting up Jesus. It is so easy in life to put the spotlight on ourselves and think everything is about us. When we do the focus turns from Jesus to us. We may end up drawing a few to us who think we are great and special but we won’t draw them to Jesus. When we get out of the spotlight and constantly push the attention onto Jesus who showed us how to live and how to die, who is the pattern for us as his people, who is the hero, the winner against Satan and our only source of salvation, we draw people to him.
Anytime we focus on ourselves or our human heroes we are focusing on people with a sin problem, with weaknesses and failures. We need a savior, a rescuer to pull us from the death of sin. So, lift up Jesus, every day, with everyone I have the opportunity and it will change everything.