The Son of Man Lifted Up

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Scripture Focus- John 12:24-43

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The setting of this passage is in the last week of the life of Jesus before He went to the cross. He was in Jerusalem at the Feast of the Passover. Events have been set into motion that will lead to His death. Jesus said in v23,  “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” The prophecies in the Bible had pointed to this, the miracles of Jesus had confirmed who He was. The time was at hand for Jesus to establish God’s glorious and eternal kingdom through suffering, sacrifice, and service.

At the Cross, we see the justice of God through the judgment of sin, the love of God through the forgiveness of sinners, the power of God through the defeat of Satan, and the wisdom of God in His holiness. The Cross would be for our salvation, and for the glory of God.

Key Verse- 12:32 As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to Myself.

This signified the kind of death that Jesus would die on the cross, as John’s footnote explains. In the OT in Numbers 21, the people of God were on their wilderness journey, having been delivered from slavery in Egypt. The people became impatient and spoke against God and their leader Moses. Why has God led us up into the wilderness to die? Why do we have to eat this wretched food? And on and on it went.

As judgment on their rebellion, God sent poisonous snakes among the people and many people died. The people came to Moses recognizing they had sinned, and asking Moses to intercede on their behalf and give them some relief, to take the snakes away. The Lord told Moses to make a snake image and mount it on a pole and when anyone who was bitten looked at it, they would recover and live. Moses did as God told him to do and the people lived. This was a symbol of Jesus who was to come, who would be lifted up for the salvation of sinners, for all who have rebelled against God. We know this, because Jesus Himself explained the nature of His death on the cross and appealed to Numbers 21.

John 3:14-15 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.

Let’s consider three reasons the Son of Man was lifted up.

The Son of Man was lifted up to bear the penalty for sin.

V27 Now My soul is troubled. What should I say- Father, save Me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. 

Jesus knew the purpose He had come for, to experience the wrath of God for sinners, and bear the penalty for sin. He was One with the Father from eternity past. Their fellowship was never lessened or compromised in any way. Here we gain insight into that eternal communion. The soul of Jesus was troubled because of what was ahead of Him. “Troubled” means literally to be shaken or stirred, and it is used in a form here meaning it was an ongoing anguish Jesus was experiencing. In His humanity, He felt all of the pain associated with the curse for sin.

Hebrews 5:7-8 During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death and He was heard because of His reverence.  Though He was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.

Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of His own. He was abandoned and denied by most of His followers. Jesus carried the burden of the sins of the world. Falsely accused and rejected by the religious leaders who should have recognize Him as the long awaited Messiah. He was mocked and abused by the Roman guards. He was crucified between two common criminals. He would suffer the horrible reality of death by crucifixion. The Son of God, who never sinned, died so we could have life.

Romans 3:23-25 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.

Propitiation means to satisfy, to turn away from anger. God is holy and righteous. His wrath burns against sin and sinners. In love He sent His Son to bear His wrath and be the perfect sacrifice for sin. God poured out His wrath against sin on Jesus, and satisfied His holy, righteous demands against sin.

How could a holy God dwell in the midst of a sinful people? How could sinful people ever hope to dwell in the presence of a Holy God?

In the OT Tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies, was the Ark of the Covenant, the place of propitiation. The Ark contained the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a pot of manna. On top of the Ark was the mercy seat, and above it was the pillar of cloud and smoke representing the Shekinah Glory of God. The mercy seat stood between sinful people and a Holy God.

On the Day of Atonement the High Priest offered a blood sacrifice to God. A cord was tied to his ankle in case he died before God in the holy of holies he could be pulled out. He took the blood of the sacrifice in one hand and a censer of fire in the other, passed through the veil and entered the holy of holies. There he would sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat.

Jesus Christ is our mercy seat. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament looked forward to the Lamb of God who would die for sinners. The death of Jesus satisfied the holy, righteous demands of God against sin.

The Son of Man was lifted up to glorify God the Father.

V28 Father, glorify Your name! Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again!

When Jesus prayed for the Father to glorify His name, a voice came from Heaven confirming that He had, and would. The crowd heard the voice of God and Jesus told them the voice had not come for Him but for them. Jesus was willing to be lifted up, and endure the agony of the cross, to glorify the Father. God was authenticating Jesus and the purpose He had come for. The cross proclaimed the glory of God by displaying His holiness and justice. He could not and would not ignore sin without a penalty being paid.

The cross proclaimed the riches of the love and grace of God for sinners. The wages of sin is death, and eternal separation from God. But through the cross, God can be both just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Some in the crowd said the voice they heard was thunder, others said it was an angel. I think their response illustrates what is going on in vv37-40 of this chapter. John writes that even though Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in Him. This fulfilled what Isaiah the Prophet had said. The Jews had seen God’s power through their history and turned away. They did the same in Jesus’ day. Many do the same in our day. Their rejection was expected and in no way compromised the plan of God. God blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts.

V41 Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke about Him.

Glory is the weightiness of God’s holy character. To glorify God is to honor and proclaim who He is- His holiness, faithfulness, mercy, grace, love, sovereignty, and power. We glorify God through surrender, worship, and obedience. Is your life bringing glory to God?

The Son of Man was lifted up for the judgment of the world, the defeat of Satan, and the salvation of sinners.

V31 Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. . .v36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become sons of light.

Jesus focused in on the impact of the cross. The world would be judged, Satan would be defeated, and sinners would be saved.

The world would be judged- The world has been under the judgment of God since Adam sinned. Every single person is a sinner by nature and by choice, and is headed for Hell apart from the grace of God. The death of Christ signifies the judgment of God on a sinful world. Jesus’ purpose was not to judge the world, but to save it (John 3:17). Yet His life, and His death on the cross clearly drew the line of judgment.

John 3:18 He who believes in Him is not judged, he who does not believe has been judged already, because He has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Anyone who ignores and rejects Jesus, does so to their own condemnation. Anyone who repents and believes in Jesus will be saved.

Satan would be defeated- The ruler of this world will be cast out. The cross may have seemed like a victory for the enemy when Jesus died, but it was actually a grand defeat because Jesus was victorious over sin and death. Jesus’ death and resurrection sealed the fate of the enemy. Because of Jesus, we can resist the devil and overcome through the victory of the cross.

Sinners would be saved- Jesus is drawing all people to Himself. Now, clearly, most have not been drawn to Jesus throughout history, they have continued to reject Him just as people did then. So what are we to make of this? The Greeks had just come to Philip asking to see Jesus. Jesus announced the hour had come for Him to be glorified. The Gospel would go out to the whole world.

By “all men”, Jesus does not mean all would come without exception. According to v42 Many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but the rulers were afraid to confess Him, v43 because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

So this does not mean all would come without exception, but that all could come without exception through faith in Him. Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

V35 Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you.

Jesus extends an invitation to follow Him. He emphasizes the brevity of the opportunity.