Author: Ron Graham
There are two actions in the statement of Jesus, "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). First, Jesus was to be lifted up from the earth. Second, all men were to be drawn to him. What does this mean?
There are three ways in which Jesus was lifted up from the earth, and in each of these there is something that draws men to him, something that gives one reason to be religious in devotion to him.
When Jesus spoke of being "lifted up from the earth", he was indicating the kind of death he would die (John 12:33).
But what is the attraction in this sickening atrocity? The high priest Caiaphas said that "one man should die for the people" and this was a prophecy that Jesus would die for people the world over. In doing this, Jesus was offering the ultimate service and showing the full extent of his love (John 13:1, Romans 5:7-8). He was dying for sinners. The crucifixion itself was ugly. But the love being demonstrated by the dying Saviour was truly beautiful.
In baptism, we are "crucified with him" and "buried with him" (Romans 6:4,6). That too, is something beautiful.
Jesus, when he spoke of being "lifted up from the earth", was speaking in a context of public awareness and recognition that he was one who could raise the dead (John 11:1-44, John 12:9,17, Luke 7:11-17, Luke 8:40-56). At his death a resurrection of many dead people occurred, and many saw them (Matthew 27:50-53). It should have been no surprise that Jesus himself was also risen from the dead (John 19:41-42, Luke 24:1-9). He has demonstrated his power as "the resurrection and the life".
In the new birth, we are "made alive with him" and "raised up with him" (Ephesians 2:4-6).
On the same day he spoke of being lifted up from the earth, Jesus told Andrew and Philip, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (John 12:22-24). He knew that his crucifixion and resurrection would shortly be followed by ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
Jesus promises his followers that he will return to gather them in rapture and take them into glory with him (Romans 8:16-17, John 14:1-3, 1Thessalonians 4:16-17).
If we remain faithful to Christ, we will be "glorified with him" (Romans 8:16).