Robert Griffith | 22 February 2024
Robert Griffith
22 February 2024


John 12:32  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Here is one of the most remarkable statements which ever fell from the lips of our Lord Jesus. That expression, “lifted up,” seems to have been understood (or misunderstood!) in more ways than one. Some have held it to mean our Lord’s resurrection, because it says “lifted up from the earth.” Others have taken it to mean His ascension, claiming that the words, “from the earth,” mean up from the earth to heaven.

Pope Urban the Sixth gave it a characteristically presumptuous Roman Catholic slant: the words, “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” were abolished when Christ was lifted up from the earth in His ascension, for He then drew all kingdoms to the Pope’s empire, thus making the Pope “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”!

Now it is patently clear that our Lord meant neither His resurrection nor His ascension when He said, “If I be lifted up,” because the very next verse tells us explicitly that He meant His death by crucifixion: “He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”

In the face of such a clear comment by the Gospel writer himself, it is surely strange for Bible scholars to make the words mean anything else. So, then, our Lord’s words, “when I be lifted up,” refer exclusively to His Cross.

This immediately gives them a captivating significance, for the Greek word here translated as “lifted up” is one which in other places is used of our Lord’s heavenly exaltation (see Acts 2: 33; 5: 31, etc.). Can you see how significant that is? Our Lord uses a word to describe that awful Cross which at once transfigures it. He looks beyond the revolting externals, to the inner glory and ultimate triumph of it. With one word He suddenly releases its imprisoned glory-light, bathing all the ugly exterior with a heavenly sublimity.

We therefore see Calvary transfigured. That Cross gives Christ a higher glory than even the throne of heaven! Little did His murderers suspect it, but in crucifying Him they were glorifying Him. He was being “lifted up” indeed, but not merely in the way which they intended! His crucifixion was a coronation! On the Cross He was crowned as the King of Love. To the perceiving eyes of His redeemed people, the thorns on His brow become eternal diadems, and His wounds the divinest gems in the universe.

Think what Calvary means to every single soul which understandingly and adoringly exclaims with Paul, “The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me!” With what wonder and worship do all the millions of believers unite in grateful chorus, “We love Him because He first loved us!”

Yes, Calvary is transfigured. Redeeming grace transforms the Cross into a throne. Love reigns supreme. Nobody could put it better than the great hymn-writer, Fredrick William Faber:

O love of God, O sin of man
In this dread act your strength is tried
And victory remains with Love
For He, our Lord, is crucified.


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