READ: JOHN 12:23-41 TEXT: v32
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
This verse comes in the middle of one of those occasions when our Lord was troubled about His own death (v27). He was troubled in his very soul – not merely a little upset or annoyed or somewhat anxious – but deeply troubled. It was the same trouble that the disciples were in when they were convinced that their boat would sink in the great storm (Mark 6:50) It gives the idea/agitation – the same word is used/describe the motions of the pool/Siloam when the angel came down & stirred the water. This was a natural reaction to what He knew lay ahead for Him. His sufferings on the Cross were real sufferings and never surpassed:
Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. (Lamentation 1:12)
And yet (as on several other occasions) the comfort that was wrought was not for Himself but for His disciples. In His troubled soul, He cries out to God (v27-28) and God answers His cry – there came a reassuring voice from Heaven that God’s name would be glorified in all the troubling events that lay ahead. Yet this thundering voice from the Heavens was not for the sake/Christ. It was (v30) for the sake/disciples. You would think that the great object of pity and therefore pity would be the Suffering Saviour – the atoning Christ who would be the object of the Father’s judicial wrath – but no! It must be His sorry bunch/disciples who would eventually forsake Him and flee and leave Him to face the sufferings alone.
This giving of comfort to the disciples occurred again:
In the Upper Room ministry – on the very night He was betrayed and arrested and beaten and taken out (the next day) to be crucified, we read Him saying to His disciples:
Let not your heart be troubled. (Jn 14:1)
This is amazing, is it not?
Our Lord did not bring comfort by withholding vital information. Rather He told things as they were, but he wrought comfort by bringing to them the rich promises of God which meet our needs in each/every circumstance of life – even the most harrowing. Our text is pretty clear/plain. It is explained to us in v33 (Quote) It was clearly understood by the people without the explanation (v34) but it is explained for us by the Apostle John himself. We have just 2 main points to consider:
1) ONE MAN LIFTED UP:
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth…
A/ We must observe this Man’s identity:
It is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
He does not admit of any other, for the emphasis is singular.
We cannot allow that this work of great redemption, based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ be shared with another.
[i] No other has the authority of God to intervene.
We read that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14). but we do not read that He sent any other for this task.
Any other who assumes to take it upon himself is a usurper and a cheat.
No – it belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ.
[ii] No other has the power to accomplish what must needs be accomplished here i.e. actual atonement for the guilt of sin.
What weight lies in the sin of the whole world.
What crushing guilt must be borne.
This is the guilt that crushes men in hell so that they have no hope of escape for now or forever.
This is the guilt that induced the rich man/Hell to cry out and say:
I am tormented in this flame!
And to hear his cries for mercy rejected and told of a great gulf
eternally fixed over which no man can ever cross over.
Who could dare think: he could ever even anticipate/smallest degree?
No! There is only but one involved here and it is Jesus.
All along in His ministry as He spoke of salvation etc., He consistently used the singular and applied it exclusively to Himself.
B/ The dignity of this Man.
Who is this One who alone was sent of the Father.
And who alone could undertake the great work/redemption?
Who says of Himself: I, if I [alone] be lifted up in crucifixion etc.,
He is the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah.
He is the One whom Isaiah saw as recalled in v41
This is a reference to Isaiah 6 where the prophet saw Jehovah sitting upon His throne. and the angels covering their faces in reverence/worship.
Isaiah saw Jesus in His pre-incarnate glory.
This is the One who speaks these great words.
He is truly man, but He is the God-man.
He is God and man in two distinct natures and one Person forever.
He is not half God and half man.
Or pretend God or pretend Man.
Each attribute of His humanity and Deity is real/genuine so that He is the one mediator between God and men.
Importantly for us, He is described as the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45).
We sinned and fell in the first Adam.
That is why we are guilty of original sin.
We add to this guilt when we sin voluntarily as opportunity knocks our door and is warmly invited in.
This is why we need to be saved.
We are guilty sinners, condemned by the Holy Law/God.
But Jesus Christ is the Second Adam.
He is the Federal Head – not of the human race (First Adam) but for the chosen race(i.e. those who will come to Him and be saved).
This is because of who He is:
It was easy for Adam to plunge the whole race into sin.
With what ease was the great act undertook in Genesis 3.
One sinful slip and the race was lost to sin and death and hell.
But it was not so easy to redeem the chosen race from those sins!
C/ The certainty of this man:
The “if” is not the “if” of doubt but of argument.
There is no doubt that He will die upon the Cross.
One day a man planted a tree in the ground.
Perhaps he planted many for wood is an invaluable asset.
But one tree in particular got its roots down deep and grew.
One day, it was cut down and perhaps part was used to heat homes etc.,
But part was used to build a Roman gibbet – It was always going to be.
[i] It was decreed by God the Father.
Away back before even time began, God laid His plans.
He viewed the world as fallen in sin.
He decreed that He would send a Saviour who would be lifted up.
From the earliest days/revelation (2 Peter 1:21) He set forth in picture book form the idea that His sent Saviour would die upon the Cross.
Many of the most explicit prophecies (Ps 22/Is 53) are actually written in the past. tense signifying that although they were yet to be accomplished in time, yet they were as good as done in the decree/God.
It was as certain as that.
[ii] It was certain, not only because decreed/Father, but chosen/the Son.
He alludes to this in v27.
Jesus Christ was the willing sacrifice.
Some men are sacrificed (though not for sin) against their will.
They resist and fight and seek to escape and die unwillingly.
Others are willing enough to be sacrificed but who would willingly take any escape route after the necessary deed was done.
We might think of men who are prepared to risk life going to war, but who hope that they will return safely home again.
That is natural and to be commended.
But here is one who came specifically to die as a sacrifice for sins.
He made it clear that the choice was His (John 10:18).
He had power to lay down His own life and power to take it up again.
[iii] The Son, sent by the Father, offered Himself without spot to God as a sacrifice for sin through the Eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).
This adds to the certainty of it all.
It was not His mere intention to accomplish these things.
There was no cutting/corners or settling for anything less.
On the Cross, He cried “It is finished”
To which we must reply: “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”
D/ The indignity of this Man.
Our text declares that He was lifted up from the earth in death.
It was as if earth rejected Him and so it did:
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. (John 1:10-11)
They did not merely send Him away into exile.
No – They subjected Him first to the horrors of being beaten.
A crown of thorns must be placed upon His head.
The Roman whip with its boney/metal hooks must leave His back as a ploughed field and His visage must be marred more than that of any man.
He must hang crucified naked upon a Cross of shame.
He must be rejected too of His Father.
He must cry out: My God! my God! Why hast thou forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)
Why is this? Why must He be lifted up & thus rejected?
In John 3:14, He said that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up?
Why? Why the necessity of such a death?
Ans:- To bear away the sin/world (John 1:29).
To be a ransom for the many (Hebrews 9:28).
To take the sinners’ place as a Substitute:
The wrath of God that was our due
Upon the lamb was laid;
That by the shedding of our blood
The debt for us was paid.
That’s it simply put:
Christ died for our sins according/Scriptures.
Christ died for the ungodly.
He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness/God in Him.
Yes – He must be lifted up and so He was.
But not only do we have one man lifted up…
2) WE HAVE ALL MEN DRAWN IN:
If I be lifted up…I will draw all men unto me
A/ We must be very careful to keep close to the language that the Saviour employs.
Here when we come to interpret these words
Let us not interpret them according/some predetermined doctrinal base.
B/ What does it mean to be drawn to Christ?
Does it just mean to be aware of His existence, His message/pardon and brought to the place whereby we must accept/reject?
If so, such is not so distinctly stated in the verse at hand
I think it means much more than that.
That seems to be a very poor interpretation.
Esp. if we read the words “all men” as being “all without exception” as exponents of this much reduced view generally do.
All men have not even heard of Christ’s name.
Fewer still have heard the Biblical gospel that is power/God.
Any one whose sole exposure to the things of God has come through the lens of RC or the JW’s etc., are ignorant of the way/salvation.
We cannot say that they are being drawn to Christ.
C/ I take being drawn to Christ to refer to a drawing that brings the whole benefits of salvation to the soul i.e. salvation itself.
Every one who is saved is saved because they were drawn to the Saviour.
They heard the gospel of Christ – it’s basic message.
In the call/gospel, they experienced the drawing power of Christ.
It is magnetic – it affects the mind and the heart.
The one who is thus drawn decides that he wants to go.
Be sure of this – God does not force the sinner to be saved.
What God does is this: He renews the sinner’s will.
He smashes the awful bondage in which it has been fastened/bound.
Satan is forced to back off and let go.
The enlightened sinner comes willingly to Christ.
Listen to Mr Calvin as he articulates the matter for us:
True, indeed, as to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant.
In short – it is the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
It is the same experience of which Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 i.e. that unless He was born again, then he could never see the Kingdom/God.
D/ I do not believe that Christ merely died to make a few things possible.
He did not die to merely open Heaven’s gate and remove a few barricades on Hell’s broad road.
There is no doubt that He did these things.
But He did much more than that.
He actually died to redeem a people from their sins.
A people who will be brought in the fullness of time to His feet.
The Father’s decree that Christ should die was a means to an end.
The Father has determined that He will have, out of fallen humanity, a distinct and definite people who will come to Christ and will be redeemed.
This great plan of the Father has not being left to chance.
This great plan of the Father is not at the mercy of a sinful/fickle world.
Through the preaching/gospel (the means) God will draw sinners to Himself for salvation (the first end) to His own glory (the great end).
That’s why we evangelise so confidently.
We do evangelise because w are commanded to do so.
Furthermore, we have every encouragement to do so – assured/success.
E/ These things being so i.e. that being drawn to the Crucified Christ is another way of stating that the soul has been born again.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
Then it follows: the all men in/text does not mean all without exception.
This Book talks about people being lost.
Mr Calvin again recognises this:
Unbelievers, on the other hand, flattering themselves in their obstinacy, have the hardihood to condemn the Gospel because it does not please them.
Many people choose to remain in their sins and God simply abandons them to their chosen fate and being so – how can they blame God?
Who are the all men of our text?
All without distinction i.e. all kinds of men.
In the immediate context – not merely be Jews, but Gentiles (v19-20).
We might add every other distinction: Rich and poor etc.,
F/ One thing is sure: No sinner need feel himself excluded unless he desires to exclude himself.
If he wishes to come – then let him come & experience pardon for sin.
and all that the gospel has got to offer – a new heart/life etc. Appeal.