Lifting up the Son of Man
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
John 12:23, 31-34; Romans 10:11-17
Jesus said, “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified,” In this passage, Jesus referred to his imminent death. He later said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” He told the manner of death by which He was to die: (to be crucified, not stoned or any other form of execution.)
I don’t want to wander away from that central theme, here, but I do want to expand upon it a bit. How does the crucifixion “draw all men” to Jesus? At this time (right now,) His death and burial and resurrection (the message of the Gospel) are not “drawing” anyone to Him, in places where the Gospel has never gone.
When Jim and Judy Burdett (Missionaries with Ethnos 360) carried the Good News of Jesus to the people in the Dom language in Papua New Guinea, the “drawing to Jesus” began there in that first village.
People saw that Jesus could set them free from their fear of the evil spirits. They began to see hope, beyond the grave. That hope had never been available to them before. They saw changes in their own lives as well as those around them. Those changes came as the indwelling Christ began to alter the thoughts and actions of the believers.
Unbelievers began asking questions, too. Eventually, people from neighboring villages began to ask for someone to come and share that message with them, too. You see, Jesus was drawing those folks to Himself.
How does the Gospel Work?
Turn to Romans 10:11-17
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Paul laid out a logical series of questions, here, addressing How the Gospel can change lives. He said that it works for all people, Jews and Gentiles, because God is the same God, no matter where the Gospel goes. Paul confirmed that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But then, he asked four questions:
- He asked, How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
- Then he asked, How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?
- Then he asked, How shall they hear without a preacher?
- And Finally, How shall they preach, except they be sent?
Those four questions, if we can answer them, will together answer the question, “How does the Gospel Work?” It also answers the earlier question, “How does the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus draw people to Him?” And the answer to all four questions is “They can’t!”
The Limitations of the Gospel
If the people don’t believe in Jesus, they can’t call on Him as their Savior. If the people have never heard of Him, they can’t hope to believe in Him. And, if no one tells them about Jesus, in language they understand, then they have not “heard” about Him. This is the truth, though some may protest, “Oh, but we broadcasted the Gospel on the Radio, for years!” There are thousands of people groups who only speak their local language…and no outsider speaks that language. (More than 6,500 languages, worldwide!)
So, someone must physically go to them, and learn that language. They must go with the express intent of telling them about Jesus in their own language. And unless they do, those people will never hear! And they will never believe…and never call on Jesus…and never be saved! Finally, if churches are not sending those committed missionaries, then they usually can’t go. Travel to some of the mission fields is extremely expensive. To live there is very difficult as well as expensive. These are just facts.
We support missionaries to remote places, because we understand these principles. But what about here at home?
The Same Gospel Works the Same Way in all Times and Places!
Romans 1:16 tells us that the Gospel of Christ is the only way God saves sinners. It says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Everywhere Paul went, he first offered the Gospel to the Jews. (They were the original recipients of the promise, and had been waiting for centuries. So, they got the first news of the fulfillment.) But, of the Jews to whom he first spoke, the majority rejected the message. So, he then turned to the local Gentiles. The result?
There were a few Jewish believers. Their parents and priests had thoroughly trained them in the scriptures from childhood. And they were now training a larger group of Gentile believers who barely knew anything about the Lord. In some cases, Paul left a functioning church in as little as three weeks!
The Message is the Same
But his message didn’t change: He said ,“I delivered unto you first of all [“as of first importance”] that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures.”
That is the Message of the Cross: the message of Jesus’s death, and burial and resurrection. That message is the power of God unto Salvation! Nothing else can replace it! Our culture rejects that message, because the people see it as being “primitive and violent, and ignorant, and ugly.”
But the fact is, our sins are primitive, violent, ignorant, and ugly, as well. The Bad News of our sin is what makes the message of the Cross “Good News.” If it were not for our terrible need for a Savior, the message of the Cross would be useless and pointless, and really sad!
How can we “Lift up the Son of Man?”
God calls us to “lift up” Jesus, in another sense of the word. Jesus referred to His being physically lifted up on a Cross. They spiked Him onto that Cross by nails through His hands and feet. The Roman soldiers lifted up that cross, with Jesus on it. They dropped it into the post-hole (or the frame) that held it upright, They “lifted Him up for the world to see Jesus.” The crowds came to stare at Him, to mock Him and to revile Him as they passed Him by. But they did not believe in Him, nor did they see Him as their sacrifice for Sin. They completely rejected Him.
But He calls us to Exalt the Name of Jesus, and lift up our hands unto Him in worship and praise. 1st Chronicles 14:2 says that David’s kingdom was lifted up, because of the people of Israel. In that sense, God calls us to raise up the Person of Jesus. We lift him up in our own lives and with our own voices. We work to see that the message of the Gospel is constantly going out. It goes out by the practical testimony of our lives and by our spoken testimony, whenever people will listen.
Losing Our Testimony
Some time ago, I told you about a man where I once worked. He always wore brightly colored t-shirts with powerful Christian slogans and statements prominent on the front and back. But his behavior and words made a lie of the message on his clothing. He was not “Lifting up Jesus” by his lifestyle or his words and actions. As a result, the other people saw the messages written on his shirts as false. He once told me that people should not judge him by his harsh words, and his bad language. But they did! And they did it with God’s approval!
Jesus gave the World Three “Means by which to Judge” the Church:
- Behavior: Even if you can’t speak the language of the people you want to reach, they are watching your behavior. By the time you have learned their language, they already know whether the words you speak are true. In Matthew 5:15, 16, Jesus said, “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” If your behavior is not in keeping with your message, then the people will see the message as false: they simply will not believe you.
- Love for one another…the Agapé Love. In John 13:34, 35, Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another” If believers are cold or inconsiderate toward one another, then the dirt they can see in our lives will obscure the light of Christ in us.
- Unity of the believers. In John 17:21, Jesus said, “That they also may be one in Us, that the World may know that Thou didst send Me.” If believers are bickering amongst themselves, badmouthing one another, or striving over minor points of doctrine, then the people will also see our message as corrupt. We have lost our testimony.
Lifting Up the Son of Man
How can we change? Can we alter our behavior, our attitudes, and our priorities, to “Lift up the Son of Man” in our daily lives? How can we better glorify Jesus, and honor Him: lifting up His name as God in the Flesh; our Redeemer, and our Savior? Stop and consider: how can we “Lift up Jesus” in our daily lives? Are there things that need to change? Do we need to change our behavior patterns? Do we need to change our Attitudes?
People are watching how you treat your family members, coworkers and neighbors. They see what kind of respect you evidence toward the authority God has placed over you. they see how you act toward supervisors at work, toward the police, toward the government in general. Do you pray for them and treat them with respect and appreciation, or do you scorn them and treat them with resentment? Do you treat others with kindness, or not?
All these things are part of “letting your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” So…it’s possible that we are failing in this regard, and thus we are not glorifying Jesus. Don’t imagine that I am pointing my fingers at anyone: As I think back over my fifty years as a believer, I can recall many times when I responded in the flesh, and shamed the Lord.
Agapé love reaches out to do what is best of the other person, regardless of how it affects you. This is the one where we have to be sensitive to God, to do what He wants, rather than just following our own ideas. But the Agapé love is not a feeling: it is action. It means putting others first, deliberately “stepping back,” from what we may consider our “rights,” to be a blessing to someone else. If you have doubts about what this is, please read 1st Corinthians 13:4-8, as it describes the Agapé Love, in no uncertain terms.
What does it mean to have unity? Does it mean “we can all quote the Lord’s Prayer, in unison?” Of course not! It means we are at peace with one another, caring for one another, and not bickering over personal preferences, or trying to claim “territory” within ministry. We are not “choosing sides” against one another. We are working to maintain the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3) We are working to correctly understand God’s Word, to have unity there, as well, but we do not fight over small differences in understanding.
We are each called to be an ambassador… all the things we have mentioned to this point are just telling us “how we are to live as ambassadors.” But if a nation appoints a person as an ambassador for that nation, then that person also has to speak for that nation. They represent that nation to others..
Jesus called us to speak for Him. That is not a “special job” for a limited group. It is the assignment for the entire body of Christ. Jesus said that the believers are to be witnesses for Him throughout the whole World, starting with where we are. (Acts 1:8. 9)
We recognize our calling, and we accept the fact that Jesus called us to be witnesses. So now, we begin asking, “How do we do this?” (That is a good question to ask!) Please bear in mind that “evangelism is nothing more (or less) complicated than one beggar telling another beggar where to find free food.” If you really don’t know how to be saved, then you can’t tell someone else “where that free food is.” If so, then that is what we need to address! (We can change that!) Remember: All you have to do is tell them how to get that food: you can’t make them accept it.
But if you do know the message, and you are just afraid to open your mouth, that is a separate issue. We need to collectively seek to gain bold hearts to open our mouths and speak, to share the bread of Life with others. Paul expressed that need in his own life! (Ephesians 6:18, 19)
Jesus was feeding the five thousand: He told the disciples, “Give them something to eat!” In their own strength, they had nothing to offer. But Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, and He gave it to the disciples. Then they were able to give to the people what Jesus had given to them! And that is all we are doing, too: we are giving to others the Grace and Eternal Life that He has given to us. Those who believe the message, receive His Grace, and the gift of Eternal Life, the same way we did: By faith…plus nothing.
I think this is a good thing for us to be thinking about, as we begin a new year! Those are good goals to reach for, and we can work on them together.
Lord Jesus, change our hearts to beat as Yours, yearning for the lost souls around us to be saved and to walk with You in eternal Life. Embolden our timid hearts. Give us a deep enough love for others that we will not stand idle and watch people pass into eternity without You.