Lifted up to draw all people (John 12.32/33)


The ‘and’ (Greek ‘kago’ = ‘kai ego‘ = ‘and I’) at the beginning of verse 32 links it inseparably to Satan’s overthrow in the preceding verse. Likewise the repeated and thus emphatic ‘ek‘/’out from’ in the ruler of this world being thrown ‘out’ is matched by Jesus being lifted up ‘out’ from the earth. It is by the death of Jesus that judgement has come upon this world and the ruler of this world has been cast out. The cross of Jesus has defeated Satan and brings this world to judgement.
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In verse 32 Jesus uses the word ‘earth’ to distinguish it from the previous ‘world’. Jesus is not being removed from ‘this world’ or escaping from its corruption. So John points out that Jesus was signifying how he would die. Jesus was lifted up from the earth on the wooden cross. In this we see a parallel with the life-giving bronze snake which Moses put on a pole (Numbers 21.8/9). All who lifted their eyes with faith to look on that bronze snake received life. Now Jesus declares that when he is lifted up from the earth he will draw all people towards himself. So it is in Jesus and his cross that we find the reality of eternal and abundant life.
Jesus’ promise is for “all people” (12.32). In the New Testament “all people” does not normally indicate every individual, but rather people of all backgrounds. Of course Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is for his own Jewish people, but now he is lifted up also for non-Jews of every ethnic background and from every continent and country. His cross draws to him highly educated men and women, but is equally available for those who are less educated and less esteemed in society. Slaves and free, workers and management, old and young, morally fallen and outwardly good people, men and women – Jesus delights to draw “all people” towards himself and so to life in its fullness. What a wonderful medley of believers will finally be gathered together in love around Jesus’ throne in glory! We can look forward to it with eager anticipation – and work to bring people of all sorts to faith in Jesus. Our Hallelujahs therefore go together with a renewed mission zeal.
John’s Gospel frequently uses the prepositions ‘pros’/’towards’ and ‘eis’/’into’ which indicate movement. Paul in his letters commonly uses verb forms which underline that justification and salvation come to us at a particular moment of time. But John stresses our movement towards Jesus. Faith in Jesus often comes gradually and we are called to move bit by bit towards Jesus and eternal life. Amazingly John shows that even the very Word was ‘towards’ God (John 1.1). And even in our ordinary everyday human relationships we tend to move closer and closer to people as we grow in friendship and love. So Jesus’ cross sets us in motion towards Jesus. He is so amazingly wonderful and his cross brings us such glory that we are attracted towards him like bees to honey or moths to the light. So we long for all people everywhere to have the opportunity of seeing the glory of Jesus and his cross. Then “all people” will be drawn towards him.
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